2020 NFL draft: Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet, talented CB trio just miss our top 50 rankings

Leading up to the 2020 NFL draft, which starts April 23, Yahoo Sports will count down our top 100 overall prospects. We’ll count them down in groups of five and 10 at a time, followed by in-depth reports on our top 50 players. We reserve the right to make changes to players’ grades and evaluations based on injury updates, pro-day workouts or late-arriving information from NFL teams.

Previous prospect rankings: Nos. 100-91 | 90-8180-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. DT Justin Madubuike | 49. CB Damon Arnette | 48. OT Ezra Cleveland | 47. WR KJ Hamler | 46. CB A.J. Terrell | 45. RB Cam Akers | 44. DL Ross Blacklock | 43. OT Josh Jones | 42. DT Jordan Elliott | 41. C Cesar Ruiz | 40. S Kyle Dugger | 39. EDGE Terrell Lewis | 38. WR Laviska Shenault Jr. | 37. LSU S Grant Delpit | 36. Jonathan Taylor

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55. Utah CB Jaylon Johnson 

6-foot, 193 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.88

The lowdown: After cracking the starting lineup a few times as a freshman in 2017, Johnson became a full-time starter the following season — and developed into one of the better man-cover corners in college football the past two years. He was named a first-team All-Pac-12 pick in 2018, repeating that honor and being named second-team AP All-American in 2019. Johnson had only two interceptions this past season but hauled in four in 2018 and has flashed playmaking ability.

He’s a confident and tough man corner who plays with physicality. Johnson has spent most of his time as an outside corner, although he’s played both sides of the field and also manned the slot on occasion when needed. With good press skills and enough feel for off coverage, Johnson should have large appeal among NFL teams that can’t ever seem to have enough competent man-cover options.

Johnson will get a little twitchy and grabby downfield (see USC, Oregon games) and doesn’t have the high-end play speed (despite a 4.5 40) to recover well when beat. He also has let some potential interceptions clang off his hands and was tested quite a bit the past two seasons, which allowed him to make some plays but also to get beat with occasional missteps in coverage.

But Johnson’s tackling is excellent, he takes his craft seriously and has good — perhaps not great — potential as a starting cornerback. 

By the numbers: According to PFF, Johnson was tied for 35th last season among draft-eligible corners last season in passes targeted against with 65. But only one corner with that many targets against allowed fewer than Johnson’s 0.76 yards allowed per coverage snap (Iowa’s Michael Ojemudia).

Interesting fact: Johnson was named first-team academic all-conference in 2018 and 2019, majoring in business and carrying a 3.62 GPA.

Draft range: Johnson has undergone surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, which he played through in 2019, but it shouldn’t have a dramatic impact on his draft status. A Round 2 landing spot is expected.

54. TCU OT Lucas Niang 

6-foot-6, 315 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.89

The lowdown: Niang’s 2019 campaign was interrupted by what’s believed to be a torn hip labrum back in October, only allowing him to play seven games and forcing him to miss the Senior Bowl and NFL scouting combine. Although he’s expected to recover well in time for the season, he could be somewhat limited through early portions of the offseason for whatever NFL team that drafts him.

Niang is a fascinating study because he’s remarkably effective at his job — but doesn’t always look like the belle of the ball doing it. That said, results matter, and Niang was an extremely reliable force for the Horned Frogs over his four seasons. He’s extremely big, but also fairly well-proportioned (even though some scouts think his body needs reshaping), with vines for arms and huge mitts to stymie rushers.

TCU OT Lucas Niang held up well in a tough matchup against Ohio State in 2018. (Photo by Matthew Visinsky/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Athletically, he’s not special. Niang plays with a great feel for the game and never appears harried. He gets his hands ready for action quickly and has his head on a swivel for late twists, blitzes and free rushers. But there are times when Niang is a mess technique-wise, oversetting and can whiff when he shoots those hands out to meet rushers.

Really, Niang’s best trait is his consistency, but that could be tested against quality NFL edge defenders. Some teams could view him as a guard, and he only played right tackle in college (but played left tackle in high school). Coming from a disjoined and simplistic offense, Niang might be a bit behind the curve of a more advanced NFL system.

But Niang, who turns 22 years old in August, projects as a moldable talent with good (but not great) potential as a starting right tackle. There might be a learning curve with his development, but his trajectory feels like it’s still ascending. He did a remarkable job against Ohio State’s Nick Bosa and Chase Young in 2018, and Young singled out Niang at the NFL combine as one of his tougher blocking matchups in college.

By the numbers: Niang allowed zero sacks over the past three years, per PFF, and only one for his career. He also was called for a mere three penalties in those four years (1,982 career offensive snaps).

Interesting fact: Niang was teammates with 2019 Arizona Cardinals third-rounder Zach Allen in New Canaan, Conn. Allen was the highest-rated recruit in the state for the Class of 2015, and Niang earned that honor the following season.

Draft range: Round 2 (unless the injury information is worse than anticipated)

53. Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet 

6-foot-6, 262 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.89

The lowdown: The son of Buffalo Bills 1992 fourth-round DT Frank Kmet (who never appeared in an NFL regular season game), our top-rated tight end in the 2020 class arrived at Notre Dame with major hype but took a while to get going in football. The former top-100 national recruit played sparingly on offense in 2017 before earning a part-time role in 2018 behind eventual New Orleans Saints 2019 seventh-rounder Alize Mack. 

Kmet gave up baseball and turned his focus to football last fall, but his season was delayed by an August clavicle injury. He returned to the field for Notre Dame’s third game, a loss at Georgia, with Kmet delivering nine catches for 109 yards and a TD, also committing two penalties and fumbling once. He finished the season with 43 catches for 515 yards (12-yard average) and six touchdowns in 11 games before declaring early for the 2020 NFL draft after initially saying he wanted to return to school.

With a big frame and good straight-line burst, Kmet has the look of a Kyle Rudolph-type of tight end. Although Kmet doesn’t yet harness his mass to be an effective in-line blocker in the run game, he flashes all the ability to be a good seam target and red-zone threat. He had six games last season with four or more catches, got open several times when QB Ian Book failed to find him and is just starting to scratch the surface of his upside.

With further development and a sole focus on football now, Kmet — who turned 21 years old last week — appears to have Pro Bowl talent down the road. However, he has little experience to this point, might not profile as a core special-teamer while he develops and lacks quickness and suddenness to separate easily from faster NFL safeties and linebackers or make big yards-after-catch plays.

But the size, raw talent and good physical traits suggest Kmet has an excellent chance to be a strong investment in time. In a slightly underwhelming year for TE prospects, he has as good a chance as any of them to develop.

By the numbers: Kmet committed seven penalties (with one declined) in 11 games in 2019, plus four more (with one declined) in 2018. Four of his penalties in 2019 were false starts.

Interesting fact: Kmet also pitched for the Irish baseball team as its (left-handed) closer for two years before giving up the sport, citing elbow soreness.

In 2018, he posted a record of 2-5, with eight saves, a 5.05 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings. Last year, Kmet pitched in eight games, logging a record of 0-2, with an ERA of 2.89, two saves and 27 Ks in 18 2/3 innings. 

He was a career 1-for-3 at the plate, with his one hit coming against No. 2 North Carolina State. And Kmet is a rarity: a left-handed thrower who bats righty — the Rickey Henderson of closers/tight ends, you could say.

Draft range: Top 60 

52. Auburn CB Noah Igbinoghene 

5-foot-10, 198 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.89

The lowdown: Igbinoghene is a fascinating prospect with alluring upside, developing from wide receiver and track star to promising DB prospect. After committing to the Tigers as a wide receiver and competing for the school as a long jumper, Igbinoghene moved to cornerback following his freshman season (six receptions, 24 yards; one rush, 11 yards).

The position switch appears to have been the right call. Igbinoghene has ideal traits for the position, other than height, and gave NFL evaluators some nice film to munch on the past two seasons — especially in 2019. Asked to press at the line quite often, he displays nice strength, good recovery ability and the competitiveness you want to see at the position.

With one interception in 25 games on defense (none on 65 targets in 2019), Igbinoghene’s ball skills have been questioned. He’s let a few potential INTs hit his hands and is still learning how to play the ball in the air. There appears to be a lot of guesswork in his game, biting on double moves and struggling to anticipate rub routes (see Minnesota game).

His positional instincts and technique likely need significant refinement. Some NFL teams believe he might be best in nickel duty, even with little experience covering the slot, and his long speed for a shorter corner is good but hardly ideal. 

Igbinoghene, who turns 21 years old in November, is one of the youngest prospects in the 2020 class. He’s a high-upside prospect with alluring traits, but his rawness might lead to a developmental year as a rookie or some rough moments if he’s pressed into duty on defense too soon. Still, we believe the ultimate payoff on Igbinoghene will be worth it.

By the numbers: Igbinoghene also has displayed game-breaking return ability, averaging 27.3 yards on 44 career kick returns and two TDs, one each in 2018 and 2019. He’ll be a Day 1 contributor on special teams and appears to have the ideal mentality to contribute in that phase of the game readily.

Interesting fact: Track is in Igbinoghene’s blood. His mother, Faith, was a bronze medalist on the Nigerian 4x100 relay team in the 1992 Olympics, finishing fifth in the 1996 Games. His father, Festus, won five SEC titles in the long and triple jumps at Mississippi State.

And Noah broke the Alabama state record in the triple jump (second in the country) as a high school senior. He finished seventh in the long jump at the SEC Indoor Championships at Auburn in 2018 before focusing on football. 

Draft range: Top 75

51. Virginia CB Bryce Hall 

6-foot-1, 202 pounds 

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.89

The lowdown: Hall was a standout prep receiver but tabbed a 2-star recruit before the Virginia coaches convinced him to give defense a chance. That move paid immediate dividends, as he started seven of his 12 games as a freshman, playing 448 snaps and logging two interceptions. 

Over the next two seasons, Hall developed into an All-ACC selection by the conference’s coaches, notching a tremendous 22 passes broken up in 2018, but he opted to return to school for his senior season. Hall was off to a solid start in 2019 before suffering a season-ending ankle injury, having it rolled up on while blocking on a punt return in the second quarter of Virginia’s 17-9 loss to Miami (Fla.) on a rainy field in October. The injury prevented Hall from performing at the Senior Bowl or NFL scouting combine.

Virginia CB Bryce Hall had an injury-shortened final college season in 2019 but played at an elite level in 2018. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

When healthy, Hall possesses ideal length for the position to execute press-man coverage and bat away passes at the catch point. What he lacks in great long speed Hall makes up for with outstanding reaction skills and closing ability. He gets his hands on a ton of passes but also has let some potential INTs slip through his fingers. Hall also got a bit grabby last season before getting hurt and was flagged three times in six games, with a couple of pass-interference calls vs. longer receivers (FSU’s Tamorrion Terry and Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool).

Ideally, he’d be used in a zone-heavy scheme that can accentuate Hall’s ability to reroute receivers, operate well in more confined areas and unleash his solid tackling ability (even with the occasional whiff). Hall is not as effective when he’s asked to carry faster wideouts and might always require strong backside safety help in more man-heavy systems.

Hall, who turns 23 years old in November, might have been the clear CB3 in this class had he not gotten hurt at season’s end — and he possibly could have been CB1 or CB2 in a weaker 2019 class had he declared early a year ago.

By the numbers: Hall averaged one pass broken up per 33.7 coverage snaps his first three years combined, according to PFF. But as a senior, he was credited with only one in 199 coverage snaps.

Interesting fact: Hall was named a nominee for the 2019 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. He has spent time visiting sick children weekly in the hospital during the school year, volunteered at a local Big Brothers & Big Sisters and Boys & Girls Clubs of America, has volunteered weekly and built a foundation with high-school kids at his local church (The Point Church of Charlottesville) and also has visited elderly in assisted-living facilities. 

Draft range: Round 2

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