WVU 2020 NFL Draft Prospects – A New Frontier
No in-person workouts. No Pro Days. No visits to team facilities. No medical check-ups.
That’s the landscape for NFL draft prospects this year, and there has been a great deal of analysis as to whether that helps or hurts them as a whole, of if there is one particular class of prospect that might be affected more. Will the top-tier players, not subjected to nearly as much poking and prodding (both literal and figurative), avoid the big drop that often hits a handful of players? Will fewer opportunities to impress in workouts, other then the NFL Combine, affect the chances of lower-tier players? How will players who were injured in 2020 be affected by the fact that teams can’t conduct their own medical exams?
The only thing that is sure is that at the end of the three-day (April 23-25) process, 255 players will have an NFL team to call home – at least for a while. All rounds of the draft will be broadcast by ESPN and the NFL Network. Round 1 will play out on Thursday, April 23, from 8-11:30 p.m. ET, with 10 minutes allowed per selection. Rounds 2-3 follow on Friday, April 24, from 7-11:30 p.m. ET, with seven minutes per pick in the second round and five minutes in the third. The draft concludes with rounds 4-7 on Saturday, April 25, from noon to 7 p.m. ET. The five-minute-per-pick allotment continues in rounds 4-6, and falls to four minutes in round 7.
With the uncertain environment of this year’s draft, it’s almost impossible to get a handle on a round or two where many players, who are on the fringe this year, might fall. WVU had five players taken in last year’s draft, but just one in 2018 and two in 2017. 2016 was another banner year, with five Mountaineers selected, including Karl Joseph in the first round, as was 2015, with four WVU players hearing their names called, including first-rounder Kevin White.
Here’s a look at some of the Mountaineers’ draft-eligible players, and some that look to have a very good chance at picking up a free agent deal. If there’s anything to remember, though, it’s that anything can happen. Who would have thought that Shaquille Riddick would be picked in 2015, or that Najee Goode and Keith Tandy would have better NFL careers than Geno Smith, Tavon Austin or Stedman Bailey?
Offensive Lineman | 6-6 1/2 | 306 lbs | Jacobsburg OH
Rated as the 239th-best prospect in the nation by the NFL Draft Bible, McKivitz figures to be a later round selection, most likely hearing his name called on Day Three. The best estimate is fifth or sixth round, depending on how suited NFL teams believe him to be to the offensive tackle position. If he’s projected as a guard, that affects his draft stock a bit, and might push him down somewhat on the final day.
He’s a student of the game and a very good technician – the only question is whether he has the quickness to block NFL pass rushers on the edge as a tackle. He did well in drills at the Senior Bowl, so that could help him offset some of those questions.
Safety | 6-2 | 200 lbs. | Pittsburgh, PA
In a draft of strange circumstances, Robinson’s heads the pack. His dismissal from WVU in the summer of 2019 for academic impropriety will give some teams pause, but he has recently owned up to the mistake with an open letter to NFL pro personnel types. He also has something no other draft prospects has – pro film and experience. His play in the XFL this year before the spring league shut down highlighted his strengths – breaking on the ball and playing downhill from a deep safety position.
The extra attention Robinson has gotten has clearly raised his profile. Every NFL team knows his name, and those needing deep secondary help will have him closer to the top of their draft board than the bottom. It’s tough to project him as a Day Two selection, but he should hear his name called early on Day Three. There are some, though, who see him going as high as the third round.
It’s tough to get a read, though, on how much of this is due to the fact that his name has been everywhere – probably as much as any player not expecting to be a first round pick. That’s not to denigrate his skills at all; he has plenty of talent. But are his handful of games in the XFL being overcooked?
One ding in Robinson’s armor is his tackling, which was average at best at WVU. If he’s a free safety, that’s not quite as important, but if he’s playing closer to the line, it comes into play more. For him, fit in a defensive scheme is vital. Putting that all together, a fourth-round pick seems to be safe middle ground, although it only takes one team to fall in love and pull him up to Day Two.
Cornerback | 6-0 | 175 lbs. | Prattville, AL
Washington’s bounce from Michigan to junior college to West Virginia probably hurt his draft profile a bit, but there’s no reason to think he can’t make an NFL squad. His speed is underrated, and his self-produced Pro Day results compared favorably with corners at the NFL Combine and at postseason all-star games. He finds the ball quickly when it’s thrown, and he’s also a sure tackler who uses his arms well to wrap up. He also comes across very well in interviews, showing a mix of determination and self-awareness that hopefully came through to pro personnel staffers via phone and computer.
Those sorts of positives might not help a player make a major jump up the draft board, but it could be the difference when a team is comparing resumes for its final pick or two. With that in mind, Washington could sneak in to the last round of the draft, especially considering the need for cornerbacks. If not, he’ll be one of the first to land a free agent deal.
Long Snapper | 6-6 | 250 lbs. | Bay Village, OH
Sunahara is included as one of the top five long snapping prospects this year by the NFL Draft Bible, and brings an added bonus to the role in addition to his ultra-accurate snaps. No only did he not have a bad snap in his two years as the Mountaineer starter, he also led the punt coverage team in tackles in 2019 with four. That was 25 percent of the tackles recorded by that unit.
Sunahara’s athleticism could separate him from the crowd, but of course he’s not going to get drafted; that’s not the destiny for snappers in the pro game. However, he’s going to have multiple free agent offers to consider, and will be in an NFL camp as soon as the game returns to the field.
Wide Receiver | 6-4 | 180 lbs. | Clearwater, FL
The physical tools – height, reach and speed – appear to be there, and you won’t find a nicer or more thoughtful player in the locker room. Campbell led WVU in scoring receptions in 2019 with seven, which was his only year on the team after transferring from Florida State following an injury-plagued career.
That, unfortunately, will hurt his status a good deal. Without the ability to perform their own physical exams, questions over his injuries in Tallahassee will linger for many teams, and probably push him into the free agent pool. He might be able to impress a team once workouts commence, but will have to use his physical attributes to make himself a target in the mid-range passing game, as he probably doesn’t have the elite speed to run by NFL corners on a consistent basis. An extremely deep wide receiver class in the draft will also be a difficult hurdle to overcome.
Defensive Back | 5-10 | 178 lbs. | Valdosta, GA
Versatility is a key plus for Norwood, who played both cornerback and safety during his WVU career. Is he big enough to be an NFL safety? Fast enough to be a corner? Or can he parlay his abilities into a special teams and extra defensive back role to snare one of those jack-of-all-trades spots on a roster?
Norwood missed the last two games of his WVU career with a broken clavicle, and as noted above the inability for team medical personnel to evaluate that works against him. That should not be enough to knock him out of a free agent look, however, as his aggressiveness and tackling ability will also score him points. Still, for Norwood and the remaining players on the list, free agency is the most likely outcome of draft weekend.
Cornerback | 6-0 | 180 lbs. | Atlanta, GA
Bailey flashed the ability to be a consistent cornerback, combining good tackling ability with respectable pass coverage skills. Consistency and confidence were sticking points, though, and even though he had 10 pass break-ups and a pick during his senior season, he’s another Mountaineer that will be looking for a free agent deal. Playing cornerback helps, as it’s a high-priority spot, so he should have a shot in some team’s camp.
Running Back | 6-0 | 200 lbs. | Lexington, NC
McKoy’s pass catching ability might help him catch an eye or two, but his drop-off in productivity in his final season at WVU makes it difficult to project him as a draftee. Teams in need of a passing target out of the backfield may look at him as a free agent pickup, but his difficulty in making defenders miss will also work against him. He’ll have to show more consistency in camps, if that opportunity comes about, to work his way onto an NFL roster.
Others – Defensive linemen Reese Donahue and Reuben Jones could potentially gain free agent opportunities, as could punter Josh Growden, but their hopes of getting into an NFL camp is likely hurt by the COVID-19. Many NFL teams, with an eye towards a shortened preseason, are saying that they will likely sign fewer undrafted free agents than in past years, as they concentrate on getting their known quantities ready for the regular season rather than search for a diamond-in-the-rough.