Steals of the 2020 NFL Draft
While the allure of the NFL Draft is clearly the elite stars going in the first round, much of team success is built through the later rounds. There is also drama surrounding guys falling down draft boards. These players often become late round steals. Here are the players I consider “steals” of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Kristian Fulton, Tennessee Titans- Round 2 (61 Overall)
When you first watch Fulton, you might think he should be a first round player for sure. Then, you notice he has some faults that bring him down a bit in a deep class. Make no mistake about it. Fulton is a fantastic player with game-changing abilities, which is what lands him on this list. There is no way he should’ve lasted until the end of round 2. He’s a top 40 prospect. Tennessee has their replacement for Logan Ryan
Bradlee Anae, Dallas Cowboys- Round 5 (179 Overall)
As I was watching the draft, I kept screaming for teams to pick this guy. Dallas finally did with the final pick of round 5. True, Anae isn’t great against the run, but you’re drafting him to get to opposing quarterbacks. This where he excels. Dallas was lucky to land Utah’s all-time sacks leader in this late.
Kenny Willekes, Minnesota Vikings- Round 7 (225 Overall)
I love this value in the 7th round. It’s very hard to believe Willekes slid this far. If not for a broken leg in the 2019 RedBox Bowl, he would’ve been a probable day 2 pick in 2019. He was just coming off a season in which he was named the Big Ten’s Defensive Lineman of the Year. Willekes has a reputation as a pass rusher, tallying 26 sacks in the past 3 seasons. While he can definitely rush the passer, his run defense has been overlooked. He’s good at setting the edge and excellent at blowing up plays in the backfield. Tremendous last round value for Minnesota.
Josh Jones, Arizona Cardinals- Round 3 (72 Overall)
Jones was expected to be a late first round pick but lasted into the third round. That’s great news for a franchise that has had its share of struggles on the offensive line. Adding that level of protection for Kyler Murray this late in the draft is great. Jones will get every opportunity to succeed and prove he should’ve gone earlier.
Cameron Dantzler, Minnesota Vikings- Round 3 (89 Overall)
Dantzler didn’t get the recognition he deserves. That may be partially due to the team he was on, but some of his best games this season were against elite prospects. Minnesota let Xavier Rhodes go last month, and it looks like Dantzler and fellow rookie Jeff Gladney will compete for the spot.
Zack Baun, New Orleans Saints- Round 3 (74 Overall)
Baun spent most of his career at Wisconsin playing and EDGE outside linebacker role. He was mostly counted on for pass rushing. In the NFL, his size will probably move him off the line of scrimmage. In this role, Baun will have to do more in pass coverage, which could’ve caused his fall. He’s an elite prospect but has not really been asked to play this role before. He showed me enough during the Senior Bowl to make me think he can make the transition. He’s also going to a team and coaching staff that excels at developing and getting the best out of their players.
Bryce Hall, New York Jets- Round 5 (158 Overall)
Hall has a high ceiling. He was maybe a late day 1 or early day 2 pick when healthy. His injury probably caused him to drop. New York lands him in round 5. If he returns to his pre-injured self, the Jets have a great player, who could develop into a true game-changing defender.
KJ Hill, Los Angeles Chargers- Round 7 (220 Overall)
Ohio State’s leader in career receptions gets drafted in the 7th round? Huh? Think about all the great receivers the Buckeyes have had, and that fact seems unfathomable. After a good Senior Bowl week, Hill was drawing comparisons to another former Buckeye, Terry McLaurin. McLaurin saw his stock rise into the 3rd round after the Senior Bowl last year. He then became one of the most reliable rookies in the league. Imagine if the Chargers can get that kind of play from their 7th round pick.
Curtis Weaver, Miami Dolphins- Round 5 (164 Overall)
Another edge player falling. Makes me think teams weren’t as high on pass rushers as some of us. Weaver plays the stand up DE/OLB style edge. He’s another guy in this draft who excels in getting after the quarterback. In 3 years at Boise State, he racked up 34 sacks. Although it was in a smaller conference, that kind of production is way too good for round 5. Miami found a late stud for their defense.
A.J. Epenesa, Buffalo Bills- Round 2 (54 Overall)
As I’ve mentioned previously, Epenesa was thought of as the 2nd best edge prospect for much of the process. It was his combine that likely dropped him this far. The Bills traded their first round pick for Stefon Diggs and still added one of the best d-linemen available. One of the biggest steals of the 2020 NFL Draft. Huge win for Buffalo. I also thinks he’s a great fit for their scheme.
James Proche, Baltimore Ravens- Round 6 (201 Overall)
I was surprised Proche lasted this long. He’s not the fastest, but he catches EVERYTHING. Go watch his highlights on YouTube, and you’ll see why people love him. Very good player to add this late in the game. We’ll see how he fits into the run-heavy offense, but he’s one of my favorite players to watch from this year’s class.
Julian Okwara, Detroit Lions- Round 3 (67 Overall)
Okwara definitely had 1st round potential. He’s got some things to work on, like adding more pass rushing moves, but he has the ability to be a good player in this league. If you watched him in college, he was constantly causing problems for other teams, when he was on the field. He’s got a high ceiling. Pretty good defensive addition for Detroit.
Adam Trautman, New Orleans Saints- Round 3 (105 Overall)
How is a Dayton player in the second round a steal? Well, because he just might be the best prospect at his position and just went to a great situation. The Saints know how to develop players and have been looking for a dynamic tight end pretty much since Jimmy Graham left. Jared Cook did an admirable job, but isn’t quite that guy anymore. Trautman is a complete tight end with maximum red-zone potential. Adding him to the New Orleans attack will pay dividends.
Honorable Mention: James Lynch (Vikings/130), Jason Strowbridge (Dolphins/154)
That’s what I got. Let me know who your steals of the 2020 NFL Draft are.