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2020 NFL draft: QB Jalen Hurts lands inside our top 100

Leading up to the 2020 NFL draft, which starts April 23, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five and 10 at a time, followed by in-depth reports on our top 50 players. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Previous prospect rankings: Nos. 100-91 | 90-8180-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. DT Justin Madubuike | 49. CB Damon Arnette | 48. OT Ezra Cleveland | 47. WR KJ Hamler | 46. CB A.J. Terrell | 45. RB Cam Akers | 44. DL Ross Blacklock | 43. OT Josh Jones | 42. DT Jordan Elliott | 41. C Cesar Ruiz

Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports

t-100. Boise State WR John Hightower

6-foot-1, 189 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.75

The lowdown: Hightower is a late-blooming speedster who refined his craft as a receiver after transferring from Hinds Community College (Miss.), where he was a track standout first and a football player second. Hightower’s ascension over the past two seasons has made him a fascinating draft prospect. 

Although his 40-yard dash time of 4.43 seconds was overlooked at the NFL scouting combine, Hightower shouldn’t be. “He can roll, man,” one West Coast area scout said. The Broncos used him on sweeps, end-arounds and as a return specialist, giving him the ability to impact an NFL offense right away. He’s more straight-line fast than he is wiggly in the open field.

Hightower remains raw at the position, struggling against physicality and failing to show the ideal high-point ability for a deep threat. Hightower has enough juice to warrant a mid-round pick.

By the numbers: In 2018, Hightower caught 31 passes for 504 yards (16.3-yard average) and six touchdowns, and rushed for two more scores, averaging a TD every 6.3 touches. That number went down in 2019, but Hightower became a more well-rounded player in being named second-team All-Mountain West in 2019. He caught 51 passes for 953 yards (18.5-yard average) with eight TDs, also adding 16-154-0 rushing, a kick-return TD and completing 1-of-2 passes for 4 yards.

Interesting fact: Hightower is a big car fanatic, attending car shows when they roll through town, and he also likes to race bikes and perform bike tricks.

Draft range: Third or fourth round.

t-100. St. John’s (Minn.) OL Ben Bartch 

6-foot-6, 309 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.75

The lowdown: After spending his first two seasons as a tight end, where Bartch caught four passes for 42 yards (10.8-yard average) and one TD in eight games in 2017, the coaching staff approached him about a move to left tackle.

“They hatched this plan — behind my back, I might add — about moving,” Bartch told Yahoo Sports with a smile at the Senior Bowl. “Hearing it then, it didn’t feel like I had much say in the matter.”

Bartch’s football prospects went from completely off the radar to a possible mid-round Day 2 selection as he put on more than 70 pounds in the process. After being named second-team all-conference in 2018, Bartch made the Division III All-America team, was named the conference’s Offensive Lineman of the Year and displayed NFL talent in his 14 starts.

Bartch displayed outstanding athleticism and easy movement skills befitting of an NFL lineman. However, it was clear that the competition he faced was extremely lacking in pro talent, and opponents often put their worst rusher against Bartch.

He was seldom tested in college and looked mostly pristine in his blocking, especially as a pass blocker (not allowing a QB hit his senior year until his final two games, when he was dealing with an injured ankle). Bartch can sometimes be late out of his stance, needs a better anchor as a run blocker and can get off-balance when it comes to finishing off rushers.

He’s the left tackle, No. 78:

St. John's (Minn.) OT Ben Bartch in a 2019 game against Gustavus Adolphus.

Some NFL teams will project Bartch to guard, but his competitive performance at the Senior Bowl — holding tough against the big boys of college football — guarantees that he’ll be drafted. 

By the numbers: Bartch’s height and weight are up to NFL snuff, but his short arms (32 7/8 inches) and very small hands (9 inches) have concerned some scouts, which could prompt a move into guard if they become issues. Still, he looked best at the Senior Bowl in his most familiar role of left tackle.

Interesting fact: Bartch got more attention for track and field in high school than he did football. He ran the 110-meter hurdles and 4x400 relays, and was best at shot put and discus, two events that NFL scouts believe help with offensive linemen’s explosion and weight transfer.

Draft range: Bartch has a shot at being a top-100 pick. How wild is that? He’d be the first Division III player drafted since 2015, when Hobart’s Ali Marpet went in Round 2 (61st overall). Only seven Division III players have been selected in the past 13 drafts.

And Bartch would be the first Johnnies player drafted since 1964 (OL John McDowell, a 12th-round pick of the Green Bay Packers in 1964, who played three seasons with three teams). The last Johnnies player to appear in an NFL game was kick returner Rick Bell in 1983.

99. Tennessee EDGE Darrell Taylor 

6-foot-4, 267 pounds 

Yahoo Sports grade: 5.76

The lowdown: Taylor is a power-based rusher with interesting upside. He has very good size (including 33-inch arms) for the position and a chiseled physique. Taylor translates as either a down rusher in an even front or perhaps as a stand-up edge player in a 3-4 system. The questions on him are with his effort, athleticism and consistency against the run.

Entering the 2019 season, Taylor was viewed by scouts as a potential breakout player and higher-round prospect. It wasn’t the breakthrough year some expected, but Taylor racked up 8.5 sacks and four passes batted down in 13 games. Although the former 4-star high school recruit didn’t set the college football world on fire, his impact steadily rose with each season.

Tennessee EDGE Darrell Taylor in action during the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl against Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Taylor’s most alluring pass-rush trait is his ability to carve the edge with great balance and burst. The redshirt senior also flashes an effective long-arm rush move — a la Khalil Mack — with power and leverage, and he has shown active hands (eight career forced fumbles) when attacking QBs. Watching Taylor get physical with the SEC’s brawnier right tackles is enjoyable and promising for his NFL eval. 

Taylor has been an inconsistent run defender, plagued by missed tackles, poor fits and wooden feet, and he did most of his work against right tackles. Taylor didn’t work out at the combine following surgery to repair a stress fracture in his foot; scouts wonder how much quickness he would have displayed in testing. There also were character concerns following a few reported incidents in college, and Taylor’s admission that he didn’t play hard as he needed to last season.

Taylor is a boom-bust prospect with a high ceiling, but he needs to realize that the details, including film study and practice habits, could be the difference between that happening.

By the numbers: After a poor outing against Alabama that included a mindless personal foul penalty for a late hit, Taylor played his best ball down the stretch. He totaled 21 hurries (per Pro Football Focus) in five games against UAB, Kentucky, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Indiana.

Interesting fact: Taylor was suspended three times in 2017 — once for a half following a fight in the previous game, once for a fight with teammate Trey Smith in practice and once for an undisclosed incident under former head coach Butch Jones.

Draft range: Anywhere from late Round 2 to early Round 4

98. North Carolina EDGE Jason Strowbridge 

6-foot-4, 275 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.76

The lowdown: The former 4-star recruit showed his impact more readily in 2017 and 2018 with back-to-back 5.5-sack seasons (11 games in 2018), followed by a disappointing senior season with only three sacks. Strowbridge helped boost his profile with a strong Senior Bowl effort, weighing in at a slimmed-down 267 pounds after being listed for most of his college career at 285.

Most NFL teams we spoke with believe Strowbridge has the power and quickness to fit best as a base end on early downs while projecting more of an interior rusher in passing situations. He has the requisite length, strength, toughness and rush instincts to carve out a solid role, even if he’ll be challenged by more athletic blockers.

Strowbridge was asked to line up just about everywhere from a 0-technique (head up on the center) on occasion to a 7-technique rusher (outside the offensive tackle) on both sides of the line. In one-on-one pass-rush drills at the Senior Bowl, Strowbridge took on all types of blockers and consistently won.

His excellent hand use often served him well, and he blocked four kicks in his career (two in 2019). Despite lacking in quickness and lateral movement skills (a 7.45-second 3-cone drill at the combine), Strowbridge can make up for that with his anticipatory skills and ability to find the ball.

By the numbers: PFF credited Strowbridge with nine missed tackles last season, and six of them came in two games: four in the loss to Appalachian State and two against Georgia Tech.

Interesting fact: Strowbridge considered sitting out UNC’s Military Bowl game in 2019 against Temple but opted to play.

“Every opportunity, I want to take advantage of it,” he said. “Why would I sit out?”

Strowbridge played 58 snaps, made three tackles and blocked an extra point in the 55-13 win.

Draft range: Round 4

97. Florida WR Van Jefferson 

6-foot-1, 200 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.76

The lowdown: The redshirt senior is the son of New York Jets wide receivers coach Shawn Jefferson, who spent 13 years in the league and led the NFL in yards per reception in 1998. Born Vanchii Lashawn Jefferson, Van is an Ole Miss transfer who spent two seasons with the Gators.

After redshirting in 2016, Jefferson climbed up a talented Rebels WR depth chart to be named to the SEC’s All-Freshman team in 2017. Jefferson transferred after the 2017 season and became the Gators’ leading receiver in 2018 despite relatively meager totals (35 catches, 503 yards, six touchdowns). Jefferson improved in 2019, catching 49 passes for 657 yards and another six touchdowns.

Jefferson is a long-armed (32 3/4 inches), smooth route merchant who varies his speed and can gear up with surprising burst. Watching him set up defensive backs is beautiful, a skill befitting of the son of an NFL receivers coach. That route skill was on display at the Senior Bowl, where he whipped several DBs into a blender with his precision, leverage and change-of-direction. LSU CB Kristian Fulton — a possible 2020 first-rounder — called Jefferson the toughest receiver he faced in college.

Jefferson can play every WR spot and should be a factor on special teams, perhaps even as a punt returner. He has good hands (only 11 drops over his final three seasons, per PFF) and figures to be a good red-zone threat and ideal No. 3 target in an intermediate NFL passing game.

The biggest question now is his health, with Jefferson likely to be rehabbing a Jones fracture in his right foot that was discovered at the combine.

By the numbers: Even with modest career receiving totals (that often were affected by sub-par QB play), Jefferson made an impact. Per NFL.com, Jefferson drew 11 defensive penalties over the past two seasons, including several in the end zone. Three of those, all of them pass-interferences calls, came in a 24-13 win over Auburn in 2019 in which Jefferson caught only one pass for 10 yards. Two of the penalties came on back-to-back plays against Auburn CB Noah Igbinoghene, a possible top-50 pick.

Interesting fact: Jefferson has a daughter who will turn 4 this year.

Draft range: Prior to the foot injury being discovered, Jefferson appeared to parlay a strong Senior Bowl performance into a Day 2 draft slot. That projection is clouded, especially in one of the deepest WR classes in recent memory. Even with the uncertainty, he figures to be a third- or fourth-round selection.

96. Wisconsin C Tyler Biadasz

6-foot-4, 314 pounds 

Yahoo draft grade: 5.76

The lowdown: Entering 2019, there was 2020 first-round chatter for Biadasz, who was named first-team All-Big Ten in 2018. But his offseason was slowed by hip surgery in spring 2019. Still, the technically sound pivot served as the manifold for the Badgers’ offensive line — a unit that was among the best in college football — and was on the field for all 14 games (and 933 of a possible 982 offensive snaps).

Biadasz has a solid frame for center, although his arms (32 1/4 inches) are just above the cutoff for some NFL teams’ minimum length, even for an interior spot. The questions come with his ability to handle high-end quickness and strength. 

He’s considered an average to below-average athlete for the position by NFL standards, making up for it with toughness, good hand strength and good finishing ability. Wisconsin’s ability to line up in power formations and run the ball consistently was due, in part, to Biadasz’s work inside.

Biadasz wasn’t as consistent last season as we hoped he’d be. Turn on the Iowa, Purdue or Nebraska games, and he looks like a true standout. But dig into either matchup against Ohio State or the Rose Bowl against Oregon, and it’s clear why his physical limitations have been concerns to NFL scouts. Biadasz had two of his four penalties last season against OSU, and his only two poor snaps of the season came in the loss to the Ducks.

He’ll enter the NFL as a better run blocker than pass blocker, but Biadasz has the potential to be an eight-year starter in a gap-blocking scheme — and possibly a solid starter despite less-than-ideal athleticism.

By the numbers: Wisconsin leads all college football programs with 20 drafted linemen since 2000.

Interesting fact: In high school, Biadasz was a three-star recruit, winning the Tim Krumrie Award as the state’s top defensive lineman. He had never snapped a ball before his redshirt season in 2017. Wisconsin was his only Power 5 offer, but he started all 14 games at center to start his college career. 

Draft range: Round 3 or 4

95. Clemson OG John Simpson 

6-foot-4, 321 pounds 

Yahoo draft grade: 5.77

The lowdown: With ideal size and rare strength, Simpson appears to profile as more of a throwback guard prospect. However, the more you pore over his tape, the more appealing his all-around game is.

Still, his size (including 34 1.8-inch arms and 11 1/8-inch hands, some of the biggest you’ll see in a prospect) and strength (34 bench-press reps at the combine, stunning considering his arm length) are his calling cards. It’s almost comical to see Simpson ragdoll smaller defenders.

Scouts are questioning his athleticism as he’s built like a Zamboni and moves like one, too, at times. Even at a slimmed-down 321 pounds (after scouts estimated he played in the 330s), Simpson was sluggish in OL drills and in the lateral-quickness testing (bottom 25th percentile in both the 3-cone and 20-yard shuttle drills).

The best and worst of Simpson was on display during an up-and-down Senior Bowl week. He was mauled in a few one-on-one reps against first-round DT Javon Kinlaw of South Carolina. However, he showed the ability to make late adjustments by stunting a few rushers’ countermoves in pass protection, including a late pickup against Tulsa’s Trevis Gipson to prevent a sack in practice. Simpson also bounced back after the Kinlaw episode to flash his angry-man strength in a few dominant reps against Ole Miss’ Josiah Coatney and Benito Jones.

Overall, his ability to maul and high football character have been praised by scouts. Simpson impressed in interviews and was called “one of my favorite kids I’ve ever recruited” by Clemson coach Dabo Swinney. Maybe that’s why Swinney let Simpson do this in a blowout of North Carolina State:

By the numbers: Clemson has produced 29 draft picks in the past five years. None of them were offensive linemen. 

Expect Simpson to end that run.

Interesting fact: Simpson worked at a steakhouse in high school — Halls Chophouse in Charleston, South Carolina — which typically didn’t hire students. He wanted to help his mother pay the bills while his father was in prison. 

The restaurant’s owner, Tommy Hall, gave Simpson a job at age 15, one that he kept until leaving for Clemson. He did whatever was asked of him, even hours after his high school football games.

Draft range: Simpson has enough appeal to land late on Day 2 because of his work ethic and strength and because it’s a weaker year for OG prospects.

94. Michigan WR Donovan Peoples-Jones

6-foot-2, 212 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.77

The lowdown: A better athlete than productive wide receiver, Peoples-Jones is one of the trickier evaluations in the entire class.

You see the former 5-star recruit’s flashes on tape, plus the high-end athleticism he displayed at the combine. One could think “first-round prospect.” But his inconsistencies are too hard to ignore with poor receiving production, dropped passes and route running that requires fine-tuning.

They don’t make too many more physically impressive specimens at wideout than DPJ, who has good size (including 33 1/2-inch arms and 10 1/2-inch hands), great vertical speed for that size (4.48-second 40) and outstanding explosiveness (stunning vertical- and broad-jump numbers of 44 1/2 and 139 inches, respectively). Here is a 17-year-old Peoples-Jones box-jumping 55 inches like he’s playing hopscotch:

Despite being blessed with rare physical traits, he seldom took over games. Peoples-Jones scored three TDs against a bad SMU defense in 2018 and totaled only 11 receiving TDs in his other 36 games. He had three catches — all 20 yards or longer — for 69 yards and a TD against one of the better secondaries in the country. But he also dropped three passes in the game; even slightly rainy conditions can’t excuse that.

Some NFL team will want to tap into that elite potential, including his strong punt-return ability, figuring that more consistent QB play and time to develop could make him a later bloomer, a la DeVante Parker in Miami.

By the numbers: In 37 college games, Peoples-Jones had only two games with more than six catches and none with more than 90 receiving yards. 

Interesting fact: Peoples-Jones had a 3.9 GPA in high school at respected Cass Tech, and he entered college saying he wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon after football.

Draft range: Peoples-Jones, despite all his questions, will land in the top-100 picks.

93. Texas Tech LB Jordyn Brooks

6-foot, 240 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.77

The lowdown: Brooks is a litmus test for evaluation because he’s a throwback linebacker with great run-stopping ability but shortcomings in coverage. That might set off alarm bells considering today’s pass-driven game. Brooks can improve his coverage ability and make his impact felt in a different way on passing downs that makes him valuable.

Against the run, Brooks is a thumper. He led the Red Raiders in tackles for three straight seasons, bringing his shorter, stout frame into the action in a hurry. Even though he sometimes runs himself out of plays by trying to run around blocks, Brooks has the instincts to short-circuit an opponent’s run game consistently in the league, notching a whopping 20 tackles for loss in 11 games in 2019.

Brooks hits with purpose but isn’t a headhunter. In four years, Brooks was flagged for one penalty in more than 3,000 defensive snaps — a targeting call against Iowa State in 2018. His tackle totals were strong over four years, even while switching from the outside his first three years to the “Mike” LB spot in 2019, although missed tackles can be a problem (see Oklahoma State and Kansas State games).

Brooks’ trouble in coverage comes when he’s asked to stick with quicker tight ends and backs. He also doesn’t show as good of instincts when dropping in zones and isn’t going to make many plays on the ball — only two interceptions and nine passes defended over more than 1,300 snaps in coverage over four years.

Where he can be effective as a third-down defender as a blitzer and “spy” to combat athletic quarterbacks. Check out this green-dog blitz by Brooks where he senses the back staying home for pass protection and closes in with a late pressure that led to an interception from Baylor QB Charlie Brewer:

Texas Tech LB Jordyn Brooks can impact games as a blitzer.

Brooks reminds me a bit of Alabama’s Reggie Ragland, the 41st overall pick of the Buffalo Bills in 2016. Ragland’s career has been a bit of a circuitous path, but he started in the Super Bowl for the Chiefs and not all of his issues have been football-related. Brooks can fill a similar role in the NFL, albeit as a lower pick than Ragland was.

By the numbers: All three of Brooks’ sacks in 2019 came against Oklahoma State, and he was credited with 19 tackles and a forced fumble in 96 defensive snaps played in that contest.

Interesting fact: Brooks ran the second leg of the 4 x 100 relay for the track team at Houston Stratford High School — at around 230 pounds. Running the anchor was Arkansas RB Rakeem Boyd, who is a highly touted prospect for the 2021 draft.

Draft range: Rounds 3 or 4

92. Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts

6-foot-1, 222 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.77

The lowdown: After leading Alabama to a national-championship game appearance as a freshman in 2016, Hurts got the Crimson Tide back to the title game as a sophomore — only to be benched for Tua Tagovailoa at halftime of the eventual overtime victory over Georgia. Hurts stuck around as a backup QB (and occasional offensive weapon) in 2018, but transferred to Oklahoma as a graduate student for the 2019 season, where he was named a Heisman Trophy finalist running Lincoln Riley’s “Air Raid” offense.

Hurts is a challenging evaluation, as he’s far from a classic passer. But as the league opens its minds to more unorthodox passers, it’s easy to appreciate Hurts’ strong athletic traits, his development as a thrower and as one of the best competitors and accomplished leaders in recent college history.

Hurts has a thick frame and good athleticism to sting a defense as a runner and also frustrate pass rushers with his elusiveness. Starting with his backup season, Hurts made strides as a passer in limited duty and carried that over with an excellent statistical year at OU. He routinely hit deep passes in the wide-open scheme and followed that with an excellent throwing session at the combine. Scouts also noted his improvement on a daily basis at the Senior Bowl after a slow start to the week.

Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts impressed at the NFL scouting combine. (Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Hurts is not ready-made as an NFL thrower full-time in Year 1. He drops his eyes too fast, doesn’t process information as quickly on the field as he does on the whiteboard and holds onto the ball … Too. Darned. Long. According to PFF, Hurts averaged 3.08 seconds per pass attempt — the most of any college QB last season with at least 50 pass attempts.

During the interview process, evaluators became more enamored with Hurts as a leader and with his X’s and O’s knowledge. As the son of a high-school coach, he’s used to having the ball in his hands and performing under pressure. But there were too many instances where he struggled to anticipate windows and too often telegraphed throws. There’s also little question that throwing to (and playing alongside) elite talent helped boost Hurts’ productivity.

His maturity and charisma earn high marks from the NFL, and there’s a quarterback to be developed. Hurts shouldn’t be thrust into a big role early, outside of perhaps a change-of-pace series or two per game to give defenses a different look, similar to how the Saints use Taysom Hill or how the Ravens got Lamar Jackson’s feet wet early in 2018.

By the numbers: Interestingly, Hurts was below-average on short-pass completions last season and above-average (to excellent) to all other parts of the field.

Interesting fact: Hurts, who turns 22 in August, was born exactly one year to the day after Kyler Murray — last year’s No. 1 overall pick and the man he replaced as OU’s starting QB.

Draft range: We suspect Day 2, perhaps as early as in the later parts of Round 2. Even with his warts, Hurts brings rare intangibles and a unique style as a quarterback that will force a team to change its scheme to fit him.

91. Utah DT Leki Fotu 

6-foot-5, 330 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.77 

The lowdown: There are few massive men Fotu’s size who can still be factors in the modern NFL that puts more emphasis on stopping the pass than the run. But that’s exactly how he profiles coming into the league despite less-than-eye-opening statistics in his three years as a regular contributor, with a mere 18 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.

Fotu is a huge nose tackle who can engulf smaller centers and demand double teams. His athleticism comes out in bursts on tape, when you’re reminded he was a far leaner player in high school. His length also causes blockers problems, and Fotu chased down plays from behind — impressive for a man who pushed the 350-pound range.

For all of Fotu big-splash games (check out USC 2019), he also would go long stretches without making plays on the ball. Superior offensive lines, such as that of Oregon, often kept him under wraps. His pass-rush arsenal remains crude and based on power, such as bull rushes or pulling past lighter interior blockers.

Two-gap defenses will appreciate Fotu’s space-eating ability, and his frame is well formed for how big he is; there’s not a lot of “bad” weight, at least based on his Senior Bowl physique. We also suspect that a patient DL coach might coax a bit more pass-rush ability out of him.

There’s also a medical quotient to his evaluation, as he was red-flagged at Senior Bowl and unable to compete there. Fotu might not have a long career if his weight starts ballooning, and he had games where his efficacy waned the longer he was on the field.

By the numbers: PFF credited Fotu with zero missed tackles on 198 run snaps in 2019.

Interesting fact: Fotu’s parents came to the United States from Tonga, arriving in Utah in 2015. He played rugby growing up, as well as one year of high school football (when he was named all-state), and weighed in the 265-270-pound range. Fotu even suited up for the USA Rugby Boys High School All-American team and trained with a rugby team in London in 2013. 

Draft range: Round 3

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