Five NFL draft prospects who could surprisingly slide

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

This year, perhaps more than ever before, we could see some surprising draft-day slides due to the uniqueness of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Looking at players who have been mocked in the first round for months, we’ve highlighted five prospects who could slide. Some could slide down into the bottom half of Round 1, and others could slide out of the first round entirely.

Jeff Okudah, cornerback, Ohio State

There are a couple of reasons Jeff Okudah could slide come draft day. First, it would not surprise anyone to see a run on offensive tackles and quarterbacks, which would inevitably push other positions down the board. Secondly, there’s been plenty of chatter in recent weeks that some NFL teams view Florida’s C.J. Henderson as the top cornerback in the 2020 NFL Draft class.

For months, many have assumed that Okudah is a top-10 lock, and that could still happen. However, it’s not out of the question to assume that one of the teams picking in the top 10 could like Henderson more, and that Okudah could end up falling into the middle of Round 1 as a result.

Tee Higgins, wide receiver, Clemson

Recently, I dove into why some of the top receivers in this year’s draft could ultimately slide. Essentially, the fact that this year’s draft is so stacked with talent — teams can find exceptional value in the final two days — could lead some teams to value other positions knowing they can still find production later.

This idea is even more salient for a player like Higgins, who has seemingly fallen down the board since the end of the 2019 college football season. He’s not exceptionally athletic, and guys like Denzel Mims and Justin Jefferson have both started rising up boards since the Senior Bowl and NFL Scouting Combine. With that in mind, Higgins could end up sliding well into the second round if teams value more explosive options over his perimeter-centric skill set.

Kenneth Murray, linebacker, Oklahoma

A player who’s been mocked in the bottom half of Round 1 for most of the offseason, Kenneth Murray could end up sliding well into Round 2.

First of all, there’s a lot of buzz surrounding LSU linebacker Patrick Queen, who combines outstanding athleticism with excellent instincts and an exceptionally high football IQ. Looking at the other linebackers in the draft, it wouldn’t be completely stunning if teams valued a player like Willie Gay Jr. or Troy Dye higher than Murray.

Murray is a freakish athlete who may end up becoming a dynamic pro linebacker. However, he appears to be more of a complementary player, rather than a keystone, and is at his best when chasing, rather than taking on plays directly.

Jonathan Taylor, running back, Wisconsin

If any running back ends up going in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, it looks like Georgia product D’Andre Swift will be it — not Jonathan Taylor. Bob McGinn of The Athletic recently shared quotes from scouts around the NFL looking at this year’s running back class, and Taylor did not get rave reviews.

Among the knocks on Taylor was the perception that he’s not great between the tackles and doesn’t really play up to his size.

There’s no doubt that Taylor has home-run speed or that he can be an impact player at the next level. However, he’s already taken a beating throughout his collegiate career with 968 touches in three seasons and could also be seen as a long-term risk because of that workload.

Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback, Alabama

There may not be a bigger risk in this year’s draft than former Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. Multiple teams have reportedly failed him medically, and multiple teams have reportedly taken him off their draft board because of his injury history.

From a pure talent perspective, Tagovailoa has everything you’re looking for. He’s one of the most accurate passers to enter the NFL in years, and though he doesn’t have a rocket for an arm his anticipation more than makes up for it. That being said, due to his hip injury, which may ultimately require a hip replacement, and due to the pandemic-inspired changes to this year’s NFL offseason, Tagovailoa could ultimately slide big time come draft day.