Lazar’s Patriots 2020 NFL Draft Big Board: 40-31

The third annual Patriots big board by Evan Lazar ranks the top 50 prospects for the Pats in the NFL Draft based on their fit in New England.

724
0
SHARE

The Patriots have several holes to fill on their roster as they begin the post-Tom Brady era. 

Our big board is based on my grading of 50 prospects that fit from a traits, scheme, and athletic profile perspective in New England. For clarification, this isn’t an overall ranking of the top players in the draft, so Joe Burrow and Chase Young will not appear. But rather a look at prospects that will be available when the Patriots pick at various points in the draft. 

As we begin the countdown to number, here’s 31-40 on our board, which consists of prospects projected to go on day two of the 2020 draft:

40. OT Austin Jackson, USC 

Jackson perfectly exemplifies that life is bigger than football. The talented tackle prospect donated bone marrow that ultimately saved his sister’s life in the summer of 2019. Due to his donation, Jackson lost a good amount of weight and missed USC’s offseason program. Upon returning to school in time for the 2019 season, Jackson started all 13 games for the Trojans but told us in Indy that he didn’t return to full-strength until halfway through the year. Jackson is a springy and explosive pass-setter that has all the athleticism to play on the left side. His feet are nimble, and his lateral slides are smooth. But his punch accuracy is inconsistent, as is his technique, which can come and go depending on the rep. Jackson doesn’t have the hand strength to latch on and redirect defenders in the running game. But he’s good on the move and in space to reach and climb as a run blocker. Jackson has starting left tackle potential.

39. LB Logan Wilson, Wyoming 

We absolutely love Wilson for the Patriots to fill out their lacking linebacker depth. An extremely productive three-year captain for the Cowboys, Wilson has the size (6-2, 241 pounds) and ability to play on all three downs. He’s extremely instinctive, fundamentally sound as the best tackler in this class, and displays solid play recognition to process what’s going on in front of him. Wilson also converted to linebacker after starting as a safety, so he’s got clean technique from a hook/curl or low hole zone to jump underneath passing lanes. Nobody is on Jamie Collins’s level athletically, but Wilson tested in the 61st percentile, offering enough there along with his instincts to take on some of Collins’s off the line responsibilities as a rookie. He has future field general qualities as either a MIKE or WILL linebacker in New England’s defense. 

38. SAF Terrell Burgess, Utah

Burgess’s evaluation screams Patriots for several reasons. First, Burgess got tons of love from his coaches and teammates for his preparation and attention to film study during the week. Second, he’s a converted cornerback that’s now a versatile safety playing high zone, slot corner, and in the box at a consistent level. And third, he’s a core special teamer that played on all four kick coverage units. Burgess has some of the best ball-hawking plays in this safety class, mostly from split-safety structures. He’ll stay over the top of multiple vertical routes and read the quarterback’s eyes to jump downfield throws for interceptions with plenty of range over the top (4.46 speed). He also has man coverage skills to guard slot receivers and tight ends. Burgess’s lack of size and length hurts him; his smaller stature could be an issue in the box, and his lack of arm length makes it tougher to contest at the catch point. But he projects as a future starter in either a Chung-like role or possibly at free safety a la Duron Harmon. 

37. TE Brycen Hopkins, Purdue

We decided to include Hopkins despite it going against the grain for the Patriots this early on in the draft. The Pats will sacrifice measurables later on at tight end but go for the in-line types in the top 100. Nevertheless, Hopkins is an excellent route runner that ran a full route tree at Purdue. He’s got great speed to run the seam, processes middle of the field reads quickly, and has terrific separation quickness at the top of routes. Hopkins is a matchup nightmare that can run routes from various alignments because of his fluidity and start-stop ability. He will not be an in-line blocker at the next level and is more in the Zach Ertz mold than a Gronk-like tight end, but he should make an immediate impact in the passing game. 

36. WR Bryan Edwards, South Carolina 

Edwards sat out the combine after suffering a broken foot training for Indy. At 6-3, 212 pounds, the expectation was that Edwards would run in the mid-4.4s in the 40-yard dash, which is blazing for his size. He’s an explosive, big-bodied playmaker that runs through contact before and after the catch. Edwards isn’t an elite separator and is at his best after the catch due to terrific contact balance. Still, he gains advantageous body-positioning by running stems to create initial leverage and using sudden feet and fakes against press coverage. Edwards started 47 games in the SEC and is still only 21 years old, which doesn’t happen often, and signals that the foot injury was fluky and not a sign of durability concerns. He would be much higher on this list if we had combine numbers. 

35. OT Saahdiq Charles, LSU

The starting left tackle on the best offensive line in college football last season, Charles comes with some off-field red flags. He was suspended by LSU for six games last season for violating team rules, but the reason for the suspension was never made public. He has said all the right things since. On the field, Charles is a balanced and athletic pass protector that shows quick feet and lateral agility to slide and mirror rushers on the edge. He’s got great awareness for blitzes and stunts as well and reactive quickness to recover from initial losses. Charles also has terrific lower-body flexibility to roll his hips through blocks and accelerate his feet as a run blocker. He doesn’t have the strongest core and struggles at times to drop anchor, but Charles has tackle feet and movement skills. Some teams might also like him at guard. 

34. QB Jacob Eason, Washington

After studying Eason’s game, it’s difficult to come away with many positives other than his arm strength. The guy has an absolute hose, and he isn’t afraid to use it, routinely testing downfield coverage and throwing into tight windows. Eason has zero hesitation in pulling the trigger, anticipates deep shots, and is at his best in the play-action passing game. Projecting him on the Patriots is a bit easier due to the pro-style offense he ran at Washington. Many of the Huskies’ play-action concepts mimic movements, reads, and throws that Eason would make in New England. Eason looked comfortable turning his back to the defense and throwing on-time to the open receiver once he flipped back around. But play-action from under center is only one component of a complex Patriots playbook. Eason stares down receivers, struggles to get through a full-field progression, and has happy feet in the pocket at times. Still, the Pats could view Eason as a project that meets all the requirements physically to be a starter.

33. WR Chase Claypool, Notre Dame

Claypool is an interesting evaluation because a decision must be made on his NFL role to project his potential fully. He’s a superb athlete that tested in the 98th percentile with near-tight end size (6-4, 238 pounds) at the combine. At Notre Dame, Claypool played mostly on the outside, where he used his size, explosiveness, and jump-ball ability to win down the field. He’s a freight train after the catch, and also delivers some punishing blocks in space and was a featured lead blocker on screens, sweeps, and outside handoffs. Some believe he’s best suited to play a flex tight end role at the next level to unlock more consistency than a 50-50 ball receiver; even the best contested-catch artists only haul in 60 percent of their contested targets. He shows flashes of separation quickness that could translate well to a Kelce-like route tree. But we didn’t see it consistently enough to project that kind of ceiling. 

32. OT Isaiah Wilson, Georgia 

Playing on the opposite side of first-round pick Andrew Thomas, Wilson is a dancing bear that’s steadily rising up the board among draftniks. At 6-6, 350 pounds, he has Trent Brown-like size with excellent foot speed and change of direction for a player of his stature. Wilson’s pass sets are a mess from a technical standpoint with sloppy footwork, lousy posture (leans too far back), and a narrow base that leaves him susceptible to counter rushers. Wilson’s biggest fix is getting rid of a false step in his initial kick out of his stance, where he tends to step underneath himself rather than back with his outside foot, which shortens the edge for rushers trying to turn the corner. Wilson, more often than not, gets close enough to his spot to force rushers to go through him, which they won’t be able to do often due to his size. He’s patient, plays to his strengths, and mauls defenders in the running game. With a few tweaks, Wilson will be a capable starter for a predominantly man-blocking team like New England. 

31. EDGE Terrell Lewis, Alabama

All you have to do to understand the pre-draft hype around Terrell Lewis is watch the first half against Arkansas last season, where he registered six quarterback pressures and forced two interceptions. Lewis has first-round traits, and is built like Chandler Jones, but is fairly knocked down a few rounds due to two season-ending injuries at Alabama, including a torn ACL in 2018. He has incredible first-step explosiveness (get off) that he pairs with a terrific speed-to-power rush and insane lateral agility for inside counters such as spins or arm overs. Lewis is also extremely effective due to his play speed as a wrap defender on stunts. We are talking rockets in his shoes and a guy that plays with an edge. In an underwhelming edge rusher class, taking a day two flier on Lewis’s upside makes some sense.