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Next Gen Stats

2020 NFL Draft: QB Jordan Love among six high-risk prospects

When it comes to the fusion of analytics and the NFL draft, identifying potential risks is just as important as spotlighting best bets.

Yesterday, by combining NFL Network draft guru Daniel Jeremiah's mock draft 3.0 and the results of the Next Gen Stats NFL Draft Model that we debuted in February, we found seven can't-miss prospects. These elite talents stood out on tape and scored in the top 5 percent of players in the NGS model.

Today, we take another look at DJ's first-round simulation, this time focusing attention on the six prospects who own an overall draft score of 75 or lower in the NGS model. These are the players who have a higher-than-average chance of failing to live up to their draft slots, if they are indeed selected on the first night of next week's draft.

RANK
1
Ross Blacklock
DT

School: TCU | Year: Junior (RS)
DJ's Projected Pick:*No. 31 (49ers)*
Production Score: 58
Athleticism Score: 62
OVERALL DRAFT SCORE: 59

Jeremiah has Blacklock projected to be selected by the 49ers near the end of the first round, though the numbers would warn against picking the TCU product that early. Blacklock enters the draft with an overall draft score of 59, thanks to below-average marks in all three primary NGS scores (58 production, 62 athleticism, 68 size). Checking in at 6-foot-3, 290 pounds with 32 3/8-inch arms at the NFL Scouting Combine, Blacklock came in smaller than the 6-4, 305-pound listing from the TCU web site, and he never generated more than 3.5 sacks in a season. His 5.5 career sacks and 15.5 career tackles for loss (across two years) look more like single-season numbers for other prospects in this year's class. If Blacklock is selected in the first round, he will be just the third defensive tackle taken in Round 1 since 2003 with an overall draft score below 60. The other two -- Dominique Easley (29th pick by the Patriots in 2014) and Justin Harrell (16th pick by the Packers in 2007) -- each started in fewer than seven career games at the NFL level.

RANK
2
Jordan Love
QB

School: Utah State | Year: Junior (RS)
DJ's Projected Pick:*No. 30 (Packers)*
Production Score: 51
Athleticism Score: 74
OVERALL DRAFT SCORE: 60

After giving Love to the Colts with the 13th pick in his mock draft 2.0, Jeremiah has the Utah State QB falling to the Packers at No. 30. Teams are reportedly split on the toolsy signal-caller's draft stock, according to NFL Network's Mike Garafolo, who cites the interview process and his college production as polarizing factors. When it comes to the numbers, it would be hard to pound the table for Love as a first-round pick. His production score of 51, according to the NGS model, ranks second-to-last among 2020 quarterbacks, due to an inconsistent junior campaign against non-Power Five competition. Across 13 games in 2019, Love threw an FBS-high 17 interceptions. His 3.6 percent interception rate ranks 102nd out of the 105 FBS quarterbacks who've attended the combine since 2014 -- only Mitch Leidner (3.9 pct in 2017), Jameis Winston (3.9 pct in 2015) and Tanner Lee (3.7 pct in 2018) threw interceptions at a higher rate in their final collegiate seasons. While Love has intriguing athleticism for the position (74 athleticism score, with a 4.74 40-yard dash at 224 pounds), his overall draft score of 60 would be worse than every quarterback taken in the first round of the draft since 2003, with the exception of Rex Grossman (53), who went 22nd overall in 2003.

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3
K'Lavon Chaisson
EDGE

School: LSU | Year: Sophomore (RS)
DJ's Projected Pick:*No. 17 (Cowboys)*
Production Score: 57
Athleticism Score: 79 (estimated)
OVERALL DRAFT SCORE: 65

Chaisson declared early for the draft as a redshirt sophomore after just one year as a full-time starter for LSU. A torn ACL in the 2018 season opener against Miami forced Chaisson to miss nearly all of his true sophomore season. Over three years at LSU, Chaisson played in 26 career games (17 starts), failing to reach either 100 career tackles or 10 sacks (92 and 9.5). His production score of 57 is well below the average first-round edge rusher since 2003 (80). Any team that selects Chaisson in Round 1 would be doing so based on projection -- Chaisson elected not to participate in measurable drills at the combine and never ran the 40 prior to the draft. At 6-3 and 254 pounds with a projected 40 of 4.68 seconds, Chaisson enters the draft with an estimated athleticism score of 79 when compared to historical linebackers and 73 when compared to edge rushers. Add in the fact that Chaisson played just two seasons of high school football, and there are enough questions to keep Chaisson out of the top 20.

RANK
4
A.J. Epenesa
EDGE

School: Iowa | Year: Junior
DJ's Projected Pick:*No. 23 (Patriots)*
Production Score: 71
Athleticism Score: 58
OVERALL DRAFT SCORE: 68

The 2019 second-team All-American logged 10-plus sacks in back-to-back seasons (10.5 in 2018, 11.5 in '19), including a sophomore season where he led the Big Ten in sacks despite not starting a single game. Epenesa's production score of 71 is not so much the concern -- it's his athleticism score of 58 that leads to questions about his profile. At 6-5 and 275 pounds with 34 1/2-inch arms, Epenesa has the ideal frame for the position, but his lack of speed (5.04 40), quickness (4.46 short shuttle, 7.34 3-cone), explosiveness (9-foot-9 broad jump, 32 1/2-inch vertical leap) and strength (17 bench reps) all raise red flags for a potential early pick. If Epenesa is taken in the first round next week, he will be the first primary edge rusher dating back to 2003 to be selected in Round 1 despite running a 40-yard dash slower than 5.0 seconds.

RANK
5
Zack Baun
LB

School: Wisconsin | Year: Senior (RS)
DJ's Projected Pick:*No. 28 (Ravens)*
Production Score: 63
Athleticism Score: 80
OVERALL DRAFT SCORE: 69

As a jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none type of prospect, Baun lacks any one fatal flaw, though his chances of being an elite NFL player may not match his perceived value as a potential first-round pick. Baun finished the 2019 season with a career-high 12.5 sacks after accumulating just 2.5 sacks across 25 games entering his redshirt senior year. His lack of consistent production over the course of his career earned Baun a 63 production score, below average relative to historical linebackers. At 6-2 and 238 pounds with 32 3/4-inch arms, Baun lacks the size and length to be a full-time edge rusher, and he tested below average in several explosiveness metrics (32 1/2-inch vertical leap, 9-foot-7 broad jump) at the combine. Baun is also on the older side for a draft-eligible prospect, as he turned 23 last December. On Tuesday, Baun informed teams that he tested positive for a diluted sample at the combine, a development he attributes to drinking a significant amount of water before his weigh-in. Whether the positive test will affect Baun's draft stock is uncertain, though the other factors discussed above could prevent him from coming off the board in Round 1.

RANK
6
Patrick Queen
LB

School: LSU | Year: Junior
DJ's Projected Pick:*No. 24 (Saints)*
Production Score: 60
Athleticism Score: 98
OVERALL DRAFT SCORE: 71

Queen hopes to join a long list of successful LSU linebackers in the pros. Stuck in a reserve role behind last year's fifth overall pick, Devin White, Queen started just 16 of his 41 career games over three seasons at LSU. Finally assuming a full-time role last season, Queen did not make his debut with the starting unit until the team's third game of the season. His limited production over the course of his career earned him a production score of 60, lower than every linebacker selected in the first round over the last 12 years, and significantly lower than his former teammate, White (99). At 6-foot, 229 pounds, Queen is slightly undersized for the linebacker position (66 size score), but does possess elite athleticism (98 athleticism score with 4.50 40-yard dash and a 35-inch vertical leap). Among current NFL starters to come out of LSU in recent years, Queen's athleticism score (98) ranks second behind only Devin White (99) and ahead of Kwon Alexander (82) and Deion Jones (79). His production score, however, significantly trails those guys' figures (all three earned production scores of at least 87).

Follow Mike Band on Twitter @MBandNFL.

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