With the NFL regular season coming to a close, NFL Draft coverage on major networks is beginning to ramp up. For ESPN, they’ve featured a Todd McShay mock draft and list of Mel Kiper Jr.’s positional rankings in the past few days.
Kiper, who remains the lead voice on the NFL Draft among major media, had some surprises regarding his positional Top-10 rankings. While there is a lot of time between now and final evaluations, here are some rankings that stood out as minor surprises.
LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
Along with the ascension of LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, Edwards-Helaire (commonly known as “CEH”) has been a major beneficiary of the Tigers new-look offense. The junior has rushed for nearly 1,300 yards and 16 touchdowns this season, skyrocketing up many draft boards. However, Kiper ranked him as the #8 overall running back.
This crop of running backs in the 2020 NFL Draft is unquestionably a deep group, which means that some prospects will be ranked lower this cycle than most other years. In Kiper’s case, CEH is that running back for him this year. Even stud running back Lamical Perine out of Florida barely cracked the top 10.
Alabama OT Jedrick Wills
Throughout the season, Alabama has had rock-solid play from their offensive tackles, Alex Leatherwood and Jedrick Wills. However, it had seemingly become apparent that Wills, playing on the right side, had more NFL potential. Despite that, Kiper has him down at the #6 offensive tackle.
In his rankings, the left and right offensive tackles are combined, so Wills would be the #3 ranked right tackle and may be getting dinged for “positional value.” Still, this is surprising for a true junior with 28 career starts and an All-American nod to his name.
Tennessee OG Trey Smith
Once one of the hottest recruits in the country, Trey Smith has done nothing but be an effective offensive lineman during his time at Tennessee. The true junior was named first-team All-SEC at left guard despite playing in just nine games this season, but he finds himself as the 7th ranked offensive guard on Kiper’s board.
This ranking is likely due to health issues that Smith has suffered throughout his college career, as Smith has dealt with blood clots in his lungs. He’s been cleared since then, but those health issues are sure to affect Smith’s NFL evaluation. With that said, Smith’s on-field product suggests that he’s a better football player than some of those listed above him.