2020 NFL Draft prospects from the Pac-12: Oregon's Justin Herbert the headliner, but keep an eye on Utah

The Pac-12 had five Top 50 selections in the 2019 Draft, and next year that figure is bound to be higher. 

With multiple top-end players returning to Oregon -- most namely quarterback Justin Herbert -- Washington always churning out highly touted prospects, and the always chippy Utah and Stanford in for big seasons, the conference features an array of intriguing draft prospects. 

Let's take a look at the most promising players on the 2020 NFL Draft radar from all 12 schools.


Justin Herbert, QB

Herbert is my No. 2 quarterback and No. 5 overall prospect in the 2020 class heading into the college football season. He has all the tools to not only be the No. 1 overall pick next year but a franchise quarterback for a long time at the pro level. The Oregon star just needs to refine his game a touch, mostly by way of his pocket poise and downfield accuracy. At 6-5 with effortless athleticism and what I routinely call a live arm, when Herbert's in rhythm, his game reminds me of Andrew Luck at Stanford. But the stinker contests popped up in 2018, outings in which he looked like a completely different -- and lost -- quarterback. 

Calvin Throckmorton, OT

Manning the right side of Oregon's stellar offensive line -- he predominantly played right tackle and right guard in 2018 -- Throckmorton is a people-mover in the run game and is adequate when needing to get out in front of the play. In pass protection, bull rushes rarely faze him. Edge rushers with an inside move do. The same goes for twists and any other type of scheme that makes him slide laterally. He rarely lunging at defenders. Throckmorton would be considered a good, not great athlete for the guard position and an average-at-best athlete for the tackle spot. With another clean year -- particularly with better quickness -- he could be a solid Day 2 pick or even jump into Round 1. 

Troy Dye, LB

Dye is a towering presence in the middle of Oregon's defense at 6-4 and 227 pounds. He's registered back-to-back 100-plus tackle seasons and knocked away five passes to go along with an interception in 2018. 

The senior is more of a speed-based block-avoider than a head-on, stack-and-shed 'backer. Some defensive coordinators will be fine with that. Others will hate it. Because of his tremendous length, Dye has a large tackle radius and obviously can get to the football in the air on throws that would just be out of the reach of smaller players at his position. He's a plus athlete who moves freely in coverage. With more physicality to his game and a sustained level of ball production on pass plays, Dye will be widely considered a Day 2 lock.


Zack Moss, RB

Moss runs with an extreme hammering nature. He has back-to-back 1,000-plus, double-digit touchdown seasons on his resume and reached those marks last year in nine games before going down with a knee-ligament tear. The 5-10, 222-pound back has some wiggle to his game but is more of a subtle slasher through the line than someone who'll deploy multiple lateral cuts on a run to make defenders miss, and he can stonewall linebackers in pass protection. Blessed with good speed for his size, Moss has a semi-throwback game that's effective in the modern day.

Jaylon Johnson, CB

Johnson looks bigger and longer than his listed height and weight of 6-0 and 195 pounds. He has long arms he uses well. After six pass breakups and a pick in 2017, Johnson disrupted four throws and intercepted four others last season. His hips are tight, and he's not the most dynamic change-of-direction cornerback, but his length and aggression do him plenty of favors. Because of his in-your-face style, Johnson gets overly grabby relatively often. He needs to clean that portion of his game before getting to the NFL. But he's quick to read the quarterback's eyes in zone and doesn't shy away from any contested-catch situations. He really battled 2019 second-round selection JJ Arcega-Whiteside last year. With better technique in press, along with a tick more twitchiness and recovery speed, Johnson should land in within the top 50 picks in 2020.

Bradlee Anae, EDGE

Anae's very active -- albeit not heavy -- hands instantly pop on film, which is a good start to a pass-rusher profile.

Now listed at 6-3 and 265 pounds, he didn't look nearly that filled out in 2018. The above-average athlete for the edge-rusher spot had 14 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks to go along with three pass breakups as a junior. At times he plays high and despite jagged movements and a relatively high motor, he's not overly powerful. With more strength in his punch, Anae could be a major riser during the pre-draft process. 

Julian Blackmon, DB

Blackmon snagged four picks and knocked away six passes in 2017 as a sophomore before upping his pass-breakup total to 10 in 2018. He's more athletic than Johnson and plays with impressive technique and physicality. Because of his athletic gifts, Blackmon stays in phase with receivers down the field and can get back into their hip pocket in a hurry if beaten off the line. His click-and-close speed pops on film too. I wouldn't be surprised if many ultimately prefer him over Johnson in the 2020 Draft. 


Paulson Adebo, CB

A rangy, long-limbed corner with smooth athletic gifts, Adebo emerged as one of the best playmakers at his position last season with 17 pass breakups and four interceptions. Quick-twitch receivers will be his biggest test in 2019, but I'm enthralled by his ability to match up with long wideouts on the outside. Listed at 6-1 and 190 pounds, Adebo could stand to add some weight (and strength) to better his game in press coverage, but there's not much to dislike about what he brings to the field at this juncture. He'll start the year as my No. 3 cornerback prospect behind Virginia's Bryce Hall and LSU's Kristian Fulton. 

Walker Little, OT

Little was the No. 3 offensive tackle recruit in the country in the class of 2017, per 247 Sports, and on film the smoothness in which he moves at 6-7 and 309 pounds makes you understand why he was so highly touted coming out of high school. As a run blocker, his power is evident, although he needs to get more balanced and play with stronger grip strength when dealing with counter moves. He glides in his pass sets with a fundamentally sound base and great knee bend, but he needs to maintain his equilibrium after contact much better than he did in 2018. Little will get plenty of opportunities to showcase his pass-blocking skills with his quarterback uncorking many throws on long-developing routes in 2019.  

K.J. Costello, QB

Costello is the perfect quarterback to operate Stanford's vertical-based passing offense that features big targets and plenty of contested-catch situations. He's a big-framed, big-armed pocket passer with a gunslinger mentality, a quarterback unafraid to try to fit the ball through tight windows or even target his large pass catchers when they aren't open. He tossed 29 touchdowns to 11 interceptions at 8.6 yards per attempt with a 65.1 percent completion rate as a junior in 2018. With what is poised to be another productive season, Costello has the size and arm to move into the first-round discussion.

Colby Parkinson, TE

With Arcega-Whiteside, Kaden Smith, and Trent Irwin gone, Parkinson is positioned to become Costello's favorite target this season. The 6-7 sophomore reeled in 29 passes for a hefty 485 yards (16.7 yards per) with seven scores last year. As expected, based on his position and the school for which he plays, Parkinson is a high-point specialist with plus body control. He's a seam-stretcher by the classic definition. He'll begin the year on the mid-round radar.


Laviska Shenault, WR

Shenault enters the season as my No. 2 receiver and No. 10 overall prospect in the 2020 class. I loved what I saw from him in 2018 by way of yards after the catch, contact balance, and sheer explosiveness. I'd love his film even more if he's able to showcase intricacies of playing the receiver spot. He was almost used as a schemed offensive target in the quick game but did flash high-end speed and plus ball-tracking ability down the field. There's a lot of Sammy Watkins to his game. 

Mustafa Johnson, DL

The junior college transfer arrived to Colorado in a big way last season, as he led the Buffaloes with 15.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. And his production was likely hindered slightly by the fact he was utilized on three-man rushes decently often. Johnson looks like a nose tackle but has the burst of an interior penetrator. 

His hand work is still a work in progress but certainly not non-existent. If he has a similar stat line in 2019, he should solidify himself as a Day 2 or early Day 3 option because of what he brings to the field as a pass rusher. 

Steven Montez, QB

The 6-5, 230-pound Montez looks the part with a live arm and impressive mobility for his size. While he completed passes at a higher rate in 2018 than in his sophomore season, his yards-per-attempt average dropped and his touchdown-to-interception ratio essentially stayed the same. With more calmness inside the pocket, better decision-making from game to game, and fewer errant throws to all levels of the field, Montez will be draftable in the middle rounds because of his inherent talents and starting experience. 

Others To Watch


Trey Adams, OT

Adams has been on the draft radar for what seems like ages. But two serious injuries -- ACL and neck -- have kept him at Washington for what will now be five seasons. For context on the length of his career, Adams was a First-Team All-Pac 12 selection back in 2016. At 6-8 and 318 pounds, Adams is a mountain of a man and tosses defensive linemen in the run game. As a pass protector, he moves relatively well for his size, but his lateral-movement ability gets stretched to the limit against rushers with counter moves. If he can stay healthy for a full season and demonstrates more quickness in his pass sets, Adams could, conceivably, sneak into the back end of Round 1. He's more likely a project-y Day 2 type. 

Nick Harris, OC

At 6-1 and 302 pounds, Harris is a fire hydrant of an offensive center. His low striking point benefits him a great deal when attempting to anchor against bigger, more powerful rushers. Also, another element of Harris' uniqueness is his rapidly churning feet that help him against pure penetrators. He can get to reach blocks across a gap most centers can't and is effective on combos to the second level. His lack of size and sheer power does hurt him at times though. Harris gets overpowered on occasion, and for as quickly as he resets his hands in hopes of regaining control of who he's blocking, he lunges more often than you'd expect for a very experienced player. Also, he's not always the most aware of stunts or blitzes. Harris will be a four-year collegiate starter when he enters the NFL. 


Evan Weaver, LB

Compared to the modern-day linebacker, the 6-3, 235-pound Weaver isn't a super athlete. He's just productive. Instincts, long arms, power, and high-energy play led to him loading the stat sheet in 2018 for the Bears. He had 155 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, six pass breakups, and two picks across 13 games. More suddenness toward the football would go a long way in boosting Weaver's stock into Day 2 territory. 

Ashtyn Davis, S

Davis has improved in each of his three seasons at Cal, and his junior year would be considered a breakout with 53 tackles, four picks, and five pass breakups from primarily a deep safety spot. The 6-1, 200-pound senior has oiled-up hips and ankles and can really range from center field to get his hands on the football, but he's not an authoritative tackler. The latter aspect of him game can be basically ignored if he continues to improve as a playmaker from the free safety position because those type of players are rare.

Arizona State

Eno Benjamin, RB

Benjamin is a fun, change-of-direction specialist with a low center of gravity and impressive burst through the second level. In 2018, the 5-10, 200-pounder logged a whopping 300 carries and eclipsed the 1,600-yard mark on the ground. Important too, he snagged 35 receptions and registered 263 yards on those catches. Benjamin has the springiness in his legs to turn what should be four-yard gains into eight-yarders and has a nasty stop-on-a-dime jump cut he uses regularly. The Sun Devil star runs bigger than his size and plays with good contact balance. Benjamin's game is very reminiscent of Kareem Hunt. 


Michael Pittman Jr., WR

Pittman's arrow has been pointing up since he stepped on USC's campus, and he turned in a dynamic junior season with 48 grabs for 758 yards (25.3 percent market share) with a team-high six touchdowns. He's steadily filled out his frame throughout his time in SoCal, and now is listed at a reasonable 6-4 and 220 pounds, but doesn't play like a normal tall, stiff wideout. No, Pittman isn't going to lose corners on a route with two breaks, yet he's smooth enough to generate separation when needed and is dynamic for his size in the open field with the ball in his hands. With another season as the Trojan's top target on what should be an improved offense under true sophomore J.T. Daniels, and Pittman should move onto the draft radar because of his catch radius and athletic gifts.


J.J. Taylor, RB

The tiny back with tons of juice, Taylor is a lightning-quick runner with a low center of gravity. He hides among the trees and reappears at full speed through tiny cracks in the defense and has plus vision to hit the cutback lane on outside runs. 

Because of his strong lower half, he plays a little bigger than his listed size and doesn't go down on first contact as often as you'd expect. In 2018, he ran for 1,434 yards at 5.3 yards per carry on 255 rushes and also caught 16 passes for 183 yards. With another big year, Taylor has the elite explosiveness to land on Day 3 despite his size and outplay his draft position in the NFL. 

Washington State

Dezmon Patmon, WR

The 6-4, 228-pound wideout sticks out as a part of what is typically a smaller receiver group at Washington State, and he plays to his size with upper-level high-point skills. The film shows what look like gigantic hands, and he rarely lets the ball into his body, meaning he can shield defenders from the football as he makes catches with his arms extended. A lack of acceleration, long speed, and plus separation skills will likely ding him during the pre-draft process. He needs a big year to cement himself as a draftable prospect after accounting for just 16.7 percent of the Cougars' receiving yards in 2018. 


Darnay Holmes, CB

Holmes was the No. 3 cornerback recruit in the nation in the 2017 class according to 247 Sports. And while his tape hasn't always been steady, Holmes has undoubtedly flashed in his first two seasons at UCLA. He tallied three picks as a freshman with three pass breakups and had three more interceptions in 2018 while boosting his pass-breakup figure to eight. Blessed with elite speed and insane twitch, Holmes is more of an athlete right now than a polished corner. With more refinement to his game -- with press at the line, staying in phase down the field, and learning to not bite on double moves -- Holmes will skyrocket up draft boards, potentially into the first round. 

Oregon State

Isaiah Hodgins, WR

On a 2-10 Oregon State team in 2018, Hodgins' production was easy to overlook. But his 879 yards accounted for 29.3 percent of the team's receiving yards, a rather high figure for a wideout in his second-to-last season at the collegiate ranks. At 6-4 and 209 pounds, Hodgins needs to add some weight to his long frame, and he can be slow down the field. But he plays like a rebounder and understands how to use his height to his advantage in jump-ball situations. With more explosiveness in 2019, Hodgins should get some Day 3 looks. 

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