2020 NFL Draft: Joe Burrow showcases elite skill set, Clyde Edwards-Helaire shines in LSU's title game win
How did the 2020 NFL draft prospects look in the national title game? Let's break it down
Joe Burrow and LSU staked their claim as the best team in college football history with a rather dominant 17-point win over Clemson to capture the national title, and the eventual No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft exhibited his vast, ultra-polished skill set in victory.
He wasn't the only LSU Tiger to shine of course, and even in defeat, Clemson's trio of top prospects made some big plays.
Let's dive deep on the performances of the biggest draft prospects on the field in last night's national title game.
Joe Burrow, QB
After a vintage Burrow ad-lib in the pocket and downfield dime to Thaddeus Moss was negated by a penalty, Clemson's early blitzes got home as its secondary took away underneath options and covered well down the field. But, after a few stalled drives from LSU, one of Burrow's top attributes -- his downfield accuracy -- was put on full display with his long touchdown to Ja'Marr Chase in the first quarter. There was another gorgeous, over-the-shoulder pinpoint pass from Burrow to Chase and a shorter touchdown with exquisite trajectory, touch, and accuracy in the second quarter. On none of those game-altering plays was Clemson star cornerback A.J. Terrell completely dusted by Chase, but the throws from Burrow simply were put in impossible-to-defend spots.
As he got more comfortable, he worked through his reads quicker and more often than he did early in the first quarter, and the RPO slants started to hit thanks to in-stride throws from Burrow.
Two huge LSU plays before the half were an embodiment of a few of Burrow's other high-end traits. On a third-and-10 from the edge of field-goal range with 20 seconds left and no timeouts, Joe Brady boldly called a quarterback draw. Burrow cut off a block in front of him perfectly, accelerated to his right and ultimately ran out of bounds just outside of the 5-yard line. For as surgical as Burrow was as a passer this season, his athleticism cannot be slept on. He's twitchy, runs with that forward lean we see in many top-end running backs, and has outstanding vision. While he probably won't be a quarterback frequently utilized in the designed-running game like early-career Cam Newton, his athleticism allows him to not only extends plays behind the line but can catalyze huge gains as a scrambler. On the next play, before taking a shot from a free inside rusher, Burrow stood in and released the football to Moss as the tight end was turning around -- uncovered -- in the end zone. It was a microcosm of a lot of things, his ability to quickly identify where the ball should go against a blitz, anticipation, and toughness.
Many times Burrow demonstrated his play-extension skills on plays where he moves swiftly but under control with chaos around him, keeps his head up, and throws accurately down the field. On a few of those plays, LSU's offensive line blocked well, he drifted one way, then before moving into possible pressure, he bounced in the other direction to find more room, then threw a strike. And Burrow did that all season. The dagger to Terrace Marshall not only had ideal back-shoulder-ish placement, Burrow started with his eyes down the field before looking right and making the throw. His eye discipline is another phenomenal -- and vital -- element of his game as he moves to the NFL level. Overall, Burrow showcased everything he demonstrated all season against one of the best defenses and defensive coordinators in the country in the national title win.
K'Lavon Chassion, EDGE
Chassion had himself a night against Clemson, even if he didn't record a sack. The incendiary junior defender repeatedly collapsed the edge with speed, bend, and assertive pass-rushing moves with his heavy hands. Take away the facemask penalty he had on Trevor Lawrence and you couldn't have asked for Chassion to play any better if you're LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda.
Chassion rushed from both sides, and it didn't matter which Clemson offensive tackle he faced. He repeatedly threatened with his first step, sustained speed around the corner, and his club move was jolting when he wasn't converting speed to overwhelming power. If he decides to leave LSU early, at 6-4 and 250 pounds and his complete game, Chassion capped his Tigers career with a dominant effort against Clemson and will be squarely on the first-round radar.
Grant Delpit, S
LSU's star safety -- who didn't have the best year -- finished on a high note with six tackles, one tackle behind the line of scrimmage, a sack, and a forced fumble. It was the type of effort we saw routinely from Delpit in 2018, when he didn't deal with injuries, and led to his immense draft hype before this season.
Deplit is a tall, high-cut safety with spectacular length and plus athleticism in coverage. Like he was in most situations against Clemson, Deplit projects to the strong safety spot at the NFL level who can thump against the run, freelance as a robber in the middle of a field, or man up with split out tight ends.
Kristian Fulton, CB
The first half wasn't particularly kind to Fulton, and he was on the receiving end of a truck stick by Tee Higgins on his end around score. But in general, especially after halftime, Fulton and his phenom cornerback mate Derek Stingley did a fantastic job locking up Higgins and Justyn Ross on the outside. Fulton squeezed inside on a post and snagged a pick in the second half but was flagged for pass interference when he tugged Higgins' jersey.
Lawrence had extreme difficult getting comfortable and much of that had to do with the tight, mirroring coverage down the field from Fulton and the rest of LSU's secondary.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB
Like the rest of the LSU offense, it took Edwards-Helaire some time to get cooking against Clemson. Then he really couldn't be stopped. He deployed a stupid jump cut to the outside that had A.J. Terrell grasping at air and was effective in the check down game as usual (five receptions for 54 yards).
All night, the lateral-cutting specialist evaded pressure behind the line, showcased his high-end contact balance, and finished runs like he was Derrick Henry despite being listed at only 5-8 and 209 pounds. He rattled off 110 yards on 16 carries against the Clemson defense.
Edwards-Helaire is one of the most nimble, low-center-of-gravity backs in the 2020 class and will have a role as a rookie in the NFL.
Isaiah Simmons, S/LB
In the first half, Simmons was arguably the best player on the field. The supremely gifted hybrid back seven player was everywhere, showcasing what his athletic talent can bring to a defense by way of efficient blitzes, pass breakups in coverage, and impact tackles behind the line of scrimmage or on outside running plays.
Even though the Clemson defense was victimized in the second half, Simmons wasn't single-handedly at fault of course, and many of LSU's chunk plays came on the perimeter down the field.
On the evening, the 6-4, 225-pound Derwin James-ian prospect finished with seven tackles, two for loss, with a sack and a pair of passes defended.
Tee Higgins, WR
It was an up-and-down night for Higgins, who only had one catch in the first half but showcased his speed, athletic talents, and power on his 36-yard touchdown rushing touchdown. He nearly made a classic Higgins high-point grab later in the game, but somehow, he feet never hit the ground in-bounds as he was spun near the sideline.
While ultimately being ruled incomplete, Higgins demonstrated not only his naturally strong hands and gigantic catch radius but the awareness he has near the boundary. In mid-air, with a cornerback draped on him, Higgins looked toward the ground and tried to touch in bounds with the football because he knew he hadn't gotten a foot down.
Late in the game, Higgins was flagged for offensive pass interference -- one somewhat of a weak call, as both he and the defender were grappling with the ball in the air -- on a long touchdown strike from Lawrence. He left the game for a while after taking a shot on an underneath target and wasn't able to corral a few inaccurate throws at the intermediate level. Higgins finished the game with three grabs for 52 yards.
Travis Etienne, RB
Etienne looked like normal Etienne in the national title game. One cut then go. In a hurry. With crazy explosion. He had a 29-yard run when he bounced to the outside early and nearly scored when he violently cut back to the inside near the red zone.
The hyper-productive junior runner from Louisiana amassed 78 yards on 15 carries and managed 36 yards on five catches. But the game script in large part took him out of the contest in the second half. There was one screen in which an outstanding tackle near the sideline kept Etienne from what would've been a huge gain.
Etienne isn't going to beat you with lateral agility and five cuts on a run. He's going to be an efficient, North-South runner who's initial cut is as deadly as any back in the country.
A.J. Terrell, CB
Early on, Terrell was an unheralded star, as LSU's first three drives ended in punts. But the infallible connection between Chase and Burrow could only be restricted for so long.
The two hooked up on a plethora of big plays, but Terrell was never truly in bad coverage. His length gave Chase problems, and he recovered well down the field, yet Burrow's precision and Chase's long speed led to Terrell getting scorched for most of the evening. His missed tackle on Edwards-Helaire with LSU deep in its own end loomed large too as Burrow and Co. extended their lead in the second half. This was not a night in which Terrell will remember fondly, but he gave a valiant effort, and his play required Burrow and Chase to be essentially perfect. And they were.
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