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2020 NFL Draft: Five of the Riskiest Prospects

Apr 16, 2020

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High risk, High reward. That’s the name of the game when it comes to some of the top prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft. When it comes to those prospects, it’s all about where teams calculate risk/reward. Each player I will be talking about has immense talent that has firmly set them in the first-round conversation in some manner, or close to it. Each player also has reasons as to why they may never live up to their potential. More obvious reasons than others. So let’s take a look at who the biggest risks are in this draft and dive into why they carry the risk they do.

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Mekhi Becton (OT – Louisville)
Becton is the offensive tackle with the most upside in this draft. He has rare size and strength, and he has some of the best finishes to his blocks of anyone I have scouted. His potential to be a dominant player for the next 10 years is evident.

However, Becton comes with risk. When you go past the highlight finishes on his blocks it is clear that he can be up and down with his blocking effectiveness. For every play where he buries or throws a guy, there’s a play where he barely or doesn’t touch anyone at all. It’s strange at times.

This is what has kept Becton as my OT4, but his massive upside keeps him and the other top four OTs in a class of their own. The reason he doesn’t go higher is that he’s strictly a tackle. I don’t predict a successful move to guard if tackle doesn’t work like Andrew Thomas and Tristan Wirfs could. For me, the balance for risk/reward is at pick 10, which is great for teams like the Browns and Jets who need help at tackle.

Tua Tagovailoa (QB – Alabama)
Rewind to nine months ago. Tua is the QB1 and is the favorite for the first overall pick. Jump back to the present, and his risk has risen to such a level that he has dropped to QB3.

Tua’s risk comes completely from injury concerns. He’s obviously suffered a severe hip injury that solidified his high risk, but besides that, he has suffered a couple ankle and knee injuries during prior seasons. For a quarterback to fall as much as he has in the rankings because of this reason the risk has to be extremely high.

Thanks to his position, it should keep him high in the draft order. I don’t see how he can make it past the sixth pick to the Chargers. For me, the pick that best balances the risk/reward is at pick six. At this point, if I had a choice, I would take either Herbert or Burrow just because of the risk that Tua carries. At six, the Chargers won’t have to worry about choosing between the three quarterbacks. They most likely can take whoever is left with confidence.

K’Lavon Chaisson (Edge – LSU)
Chaisson is an electrifying athlete. He displayed flexibility, burst, and pass rush ability to earn a top-32 ranking, and the expectation is that he’ll be a top-20 pick.

The risk that comes with Chaisson is that his skills didn’t translate to results in the form of impressive stats. In the 2018 season, he was injured and missed the majority of it, leaving him with a career total of 9.5 sacks over three seasons. This is tough ground to be on for a team that’s drafting in the top half of round one that needs an edge rusher. This could go several ways. Teams have to decide if they think he has the chance to turn into a Danielle Hunter-type player who had nearly no college pass rush stats but has dominated the NFL, or if he will continue to show ability but never turn it into results.

For me, the breaking point on where K’Lavon Chaisson should be drafted is around the halfway point of round one. The Falcons pick at 16 is the first pick that I would be comfortable seeing him get drafted at.

Bryce Hall (CB – Virginia)
Bryce Hall is a missed season away from being a top-five CB in this draft. Before his injury, Hall was a physical corner with plenty of fluidity in his hips and reactive athleticism to play at the next level. His only red flag at the time was his average speed for the position.

Where the risk comes is the correlation between his speed and an injury he had this past season. Pre-injury, Hall wasn’t looked at as a speedster at the cornerback position, but he was thought to have just enough speed to succeed. Then the gruesome ankle injury occurred that required surgery. Now, whether he can return to his original speed can’t be answered due to current world events. With the current Covid-19 issues keeping teams from checking in on his rehab and possibly getting a chance to time him at a private workout, so he now has to go through the pre-draft process with a huge red flag over his head. 

Hall is the only player on this list who I don’t see as a first-round selection because of his risk. However, his film from when he is healthy makes me set my confidence balance point between his risk/reward is at pick 50. When I consider his risk/reward, I can’t confidently say I would target him until the back half of round two.

Antoine Winfield Jr. (S – Minnesota)
I’ve repeatedly said throughout this draft process that if Winfield Jr. was 4-5″ taller and didn’t have the injury concerns, he’d be a top-10 pick. He is one of the most versatile players in the entire draft class and has the results on the field to prove it.

The risk with Winfield is extremely high, though. If it was just that he was undersized it could be overlooked some, but he is undersized and has suffered multiple season ending injuries. One that was a hamstring injury and another that was a foot injury.

It is because of the consistent long term injuries and questionable at best size that Winfield will fall much further than his game film would suggest. The reward could be great, but the risk is equally as high. This has led to my belief that the break even pick for Winfield’s risk/reward is pick 33. I’m not willing to risk the money that comes with a first round selection, even though it’s capped, on a player in Winfield’s situation. Once the Day Two starts I’m all for it though. That is when the reward starts to outweigh the risk.

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Mark Johnson is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Mark, check out his archive and follow him @MJ_NFLDraft.