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Where ESPN’s NFL Draft Model Thinks Your Favorite Player Is Going

The 2020 NFL draft, which begins Thursday, is sure to provide a lot of intrigue — and not just because the proceedings will be conducted in a fully virtual fashion for the first time in history. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, prospects’ pro days were canceled, in-person interviews had to be shifted to digital formats, and the final steps of the scouting process were totally upended. That means there could be more uncertainty than ever about who should be picked where and how much confidence general managers can have in their selections.

To help cut through some of that doubt — or at least quantify it — Brian Burke of ESPN’s Stats & Information Group created a predictive tool that combines mock drafts, team needs, scouting assessments and even trade possibilities to generate the odds that each player will be taken with each pick. On a related note, it can also tell you the chances that any given prospect will still be available at a given draft slot, a priceless function for GMs deliberating whether to trade up to snag their preferred player or wait for him to fall into their laps.

Our friends at Stats & Info shared the model with us early; it will be updated again before the start of the draft with the addition of a few final mock drafts. In the meantime, here is a sortable, searchable table featuring all 199 of the players in the early projections, along with their draft-slot projections. Each player has an average draft position — weighted by their likelihood of being taken at each pick — plus their best-case (95th percentile), median (50th percentile) and worst-case (5th percentile) pick outcome, according to the model.

How will the draft go down?

Projected draft-pick distribution for the 2020 NFL draft, according to ESPN’s draft prediction model

PICK DISTRIBUTION*
Player
Pos
School
Avg Pick
Worst Case
Median
Best Case
Joe Burrow QB LSU 1.1 2 1 1
Chase Young DE Ohio State 2.2 3 2 1
Tua Tagovailoa QB Alabama 3.8 7 3 1
Jeff Okudah CB Ohio State 4.0 6 4 3
Isaiah Simmons OLB Clemson 5.8 9 5 4
Justin Herbert QB Oregon 6.5 9 6 5
Tristan Wirfs OT Iowa 7.5 11 7 4
Derrick Brown DT Auburn 7.7 11 7 5
Mekhi Becton OT Louisville 10.0 16 9 6
Jedrick Wills Jr. OT Alabama 11.0 17 10 7
Jerry Jeudy WR Alabama 12.7 18 12 9
CeeDee Lamb WR Oklahoma 13.1 19 12 9
Andrew Thomas OT Georgia 14.9 21 14 10
Javon Kinlaw DT South Carolina 15.0 23 14 9
Henry Ruggs III WR Alabama 15.1 23 14 10
CJ Henderson CB Florida 16.1 26 16 10
K’Lavon Chaisson DE LSU 20.2 35 18 12
Xavier McKinney S Alabama 22.5 53 20 12
Jordan Love QB Utah State 22.7 38 20 15
Justin Jefferson WR LSU 21.9 36 21 14
Kenneth Murray ILB Oklahoma 22.6 38 21 15
Patrick Queen ILB LSU 26.4 41 24 18
Yetur Gross-Matos DE Penn State 28.3 42 27 19
Ross Blacklock DT TCU 30.5 45 29 21
Josh Jones OT Houston 30.5 46 29 21
A.J. Epenesa DE Iowa 30.6 50 29 17
A.J. Terrell CB Clemson 30.9 46 30 19
Tee Higgins WR Clemson 32.0 48 31 22
Austin Jackson OT USC 32.5 51 31 19
Zack Baun OLB Wisconsin 32.9 52 31 21
Brandon Aiyuk WR Arizona State 33.3 50 32 20
Denzel Mims WR Baylor 34.7 56 34 19
D’Andre Swift RB Georgia 35.4 53 34 25
Jonathan Taylor RB Wisconsin 37.0 61 35 20
Grant Delpit S LSU 39.6 68 38 21
Cesar Ruiz C Michigan 40.2 61 38 25
Antoine Winfield Jr. S Minnesota 39.9 64 39 20
Cole Kmet TE Notre Dame 43.7 66 42 25
Kristian Fulton CB LSU 44.8 69 43 22
Jaylon Johnson CB Utah 43.7 64 44 24
Neville Gallimore DT Oklahoma 46.1 75 44 21
Trevon Diggs CB Alabama 47.4 66 47 30
Laviska Shenault Jr. WR Colorado 48.8 76 48 23
Jeff Gladney CB TCU 50.4 70 50 32
Jalen Reagor WR TCU 50.5 70 50 32
J.K. Dobbins RB Ohio State 51.2 76 52 26
James Lynch DE Baylor 59.3 131 53 15
Justin Madubuike DT Texas A&M 54.0 75 54 32
Noah Igbinoghene CB Auburn 56.3 78 56 36
Josh Uche DE Michigan 57.8 81 58 35
Jeremy Chinn S Southern Illinois 58.0 82 58 36
Terrell Lewis OLB Alabama 58.2 81 58 36
Marlon Davidson DE Auburn 58.6 78 59 38
Clyde Edwards-Helaire RB LSU 59.2 79 59 39
Damon Arnette CB Ohio State 61.7 83 63 39
KJ Hamler WR Penn State 62.6 92 64 37
Jacob Eason QB Washington 58.4 81 65 34
Michael Pittman Jr. WR USC 63.9 86 65 42
Curtis Weaver DE Boise State 64.6 95 65 35
Isaiah Wilson OT Georgia 66.1 90 66 43
Julian Okwara DE Notre Dame 66.1 90 66 42
Chase Claypool WR Notre Dame 66.4 88 67 43
Cam Akers RB Florida State 66.6 96 67 42
Jordan Elliott DT Missouri 67.1 97 67 40
Netane Muti OG Fresno State 67.4 96 67 41
Terrell Burgess S Utah 79.4 143 67 37
Ashtyn Davis S California 67.8 97 68 41
Ezra Cleveland OT Boise State 68.7 97 68 41
Devin Duvernay WR Texas 68.9 97 68 44
Tyler Biadasz C Wisconsin 69.3 99 68 44
Adam Trautman TE Dayton 70.6 99 69 47
Bryce Hall CB Virginia 73.5 132 69 30
Bradlee Anae DE Utah 72.4 118 70 37
Lloyd Cushenberry III C LSU 74.0 131 71 33
Jordyn Brooks OLB Texas Tech 79.7 136 72 47
Cameron Dantzler CB Mississippi State 77.0 120 74 44
Malik Harrison OLB Ohio State 80.2 125 76 47
Brycen Hopkins TE Purdue 82.4 135 78 44
Matt Hennessy C Temple 84.1 119 81 58
Jason Strowbridge DT North Carolina 85.6 131 81 54
Zack Moss RB Utah 91.4 156 85 49
Bryan Edwards WR South Carolina 91.9 151 85 51
Troy Pride Jr. CB Notre Dame 91.7 152 86 52
Jake Fromm QB Georgia 94.2 154 87 56
Jalen Hurts QB Oklahoma 94.2 159 88 50
Kyle Dugger S Lenoir-Rhyne 94.6 159 89 53
Albert Okwuegbunam TE Missouri 96.5 159 91 57
Harrison Bryant TE Florida Atlantic 97.0 159 91 59
Akeem Davis-Gaither OLB Appalachian State 97.4 162 92 56
Prince Tega Wanogho OT Auburn 103.5 204 94 35
Hunter Bryant TE Washington 106.8 207 97 38
Matt Peart OT UConn 104.7 171 100 59
Raekwon Davis DT Alabama 110.9 212 100 43
Lucas Niang OT TCU 110.7 212 101 45
Antonio Gandy-Golden WR Liberty 111.7 214 101 47
K’Von Wallace S Clemson 106.2 177 102 45
Jabari Zuniga DE Florida 107.8 174 103 63
Trey Adams OT Washington 114.9 218 104 51
Donovan Peoples-Jones WR Michigan 116.6 220 105 54
Darrell Taylor DE Tennessee 112.9 180 108 66
Jonathan Greenard DE Florida 120.8 226 110 59
Davon Hamilton DT Ohio State 116.3 184 111 69
Van Jefferson WR Florida 122.2 228 111 62
K.J. Hill WR Ohio State 122.9 229 112 63
Nick Harris C Washington 123.0 227 112 60
Hakeem Adeniji OT Kansas 116.9 190 115 53
Ben Bredeson OG Michigan 122.0 191 118 74
Robert Hunt OG Louisiana 117.7 188 121 54
Damien Lewis OG LSU 118.3 189 121 55
Anfernee Jennings OLB Alabama 130.9 220 127 60
Alton Robinson DE Syracuse 130.6 205 128 72
Logan Stenberg OG Kentucky 132.9 224 129 63
Leki Fotu DT Utah 131.7 207 130 70
Ke’Shawn Vaughn RB Vanderbilt 133.1 223 130 62
AJ Dillon RB Boston College 133.1 223 130 62
Jared Pinkney TE Vanderbilt 133.3 223 130 63
John Simpson OG Clemson 134.4 227 131 65
Amik Robertson CB Louisiana Tech 136.1 230 133 66
Darnay Holmes CB UCLA 136.1 230 133 66
Anthony McFarland Jr. RB Maryland 135.9 228 134 65
Collin Johnson WR Texas 136.8 232 134 67
Larrell Murchison DT NC State 136.4 212 135 80
Troy Dye OLB Oregon 140.4 237 139 69
Logan Wilson ILB Wyoming 140.9 239 139 70
Essang Bassey CB Wake Forest 141.4 240 140 70
Brandon Jones S Texas 143.7 244 143 72
Willie Gay Jr. ILB Mississippi State 143.7 226 144 70
Lynn Bowden Jr. WR Kentucky 144.5 247 144 73
Saahdiq Charles OT LSU 144.6 246 144 72
Kenny Willekes DE Michigan State 144.8 246 144 72
Khalid Kareem DE Notre Dame 146.4 250 146 74
Jonah Jackson OG Ohio State 147.5 253 148 76
Nick Coe DE Auburn 149.7 Und. 150 77
Tyler Johnson WR Minnesota 150.2 Und. 151 79
Jack Driscoll OT Auburn 150.3 Und. 151 77
Rashard Lawrence DT LSU 150.3 Und. 151 78
Kalija Lipscomb WR Vanderbilt 151.0 Und. 152 79
Isaiah Hodgins WR Oregon State 151.8 Und. 153 80
A.J. Green CB Oklahoma State 154.5 Und. 157 82
Markus Bailey ILB Purdue 154.6 Und. 157 83
Colby Parkinson TE Stanford 154.9 Und. 157 82
Solomon Kindley OG Georgia 156.4 Und. 159 85
Geno Stone S Iowa 156.6 Und. 160 84
Gabriel Davis WR UCF 157.4 Und. 161 86
Ben Bartch OG St. John’s (MN) 160.2 243 162 85
Lavert Hill CB Michigan 159.2 Und. 164 88
Thaddeus Moss TE LSU 160.3 Und. 165 89
La’Mical Perine RB Florida 161.5 Und. 167 90
Josiah Scott CB Michigan State 162.2 Und. 168 91
Anthony Gordon QB Washington State 164.8 Und. 170 96
Michael Ojemudia CB Iowa 165.0 Und. 172 95
Eno Benjamin RB Arizona State 165.2 Und. 172 95
James Proche WR SMU 165.5 Und. 173 96
Kindle Vildor CB Georgia Southern 166.4 Und. 175 96
Lamar Jackson CB Nebraska 167.1 Und. 176 97
D.J. Wonnum DE South Carolina 169.1 Und. 179 100
Quez Watkins WR Southern Mississippi 169.5 Und. 180 101
Trystan Colon-Castillo C Missouri 170.3 Und. 181 102
Josh Metellus S Michigan 170.8 Und. 182 103
Quartney Davis WR Texas A&M 171.3 Und. 184 103
Brian Cole II S Mississippi State 171.5 Und. 184 104
Myles Bryant CB Washington 171.5 Und. 184 104
Colton McKivitz OT West Virginia 172.4 Und. 186 105
Devin Asiasi TE UCLA 175.3 Und. 191 109
Dane Jackson CB Pittsburgh 175.0 Und. 192 109
Javaris Davis CB Auburn 175.6 Und. 193 110
Jonathan Garvin DE Miami 175.7 Und. 193 110
Khaleke Hudson OLB Michigan 177.6 Und. 197 113
Alex Taylor OT South Carolina State 178.3 Und. 199 114
Mitchell Wilcox TE South Florida 181.0 Und. 204 119
Kamal Martin OLB Minnesota 181.1 Und. 205 119
Cheyenne O’Grady TE Arkansas 182.1 Und. 206 121
Raequan Williams DT Michigan State 182.5 Und. 207 121
Calvin Throckmorton OT Oregon 183.0 Und. 209 122
Antonio Gibson RB Memphis 183.0 Und. 209 122
Quintez Cephus WR Wisconsin 183.7 Und. 211 123
Antoine Brooks Jr. S Maryland 184.8 Und. 213 125
Harrison Hand CB Temple 185.0 Und. 214 124
Trevon Hill DE Miami 185.7 Und. 215 126
Terence Steele OT Texas Tech 186.6 Und. 217 128
Julian Blackmon S Utah 187.2 Und. 218 129
Javon Leake RB Maryland 187.2 Und. 218 129
Davion Taylor OLB Colorado 188.9 Und. 222 131
Aaron Fuller WR Washington 189.1 Und. 223 132
Keith Ismael C San Diego State 189.9 Und. 223 134
James Robinson RB Illinois State 190.2 Und. 224 135
Jordan Fuller S Ohio State 191.3 Und. 227 136
J.R. Reed S Georgia 191.3 Und. 227 136
Jacob Breeland TE Oregon 192.7 Und. 230 139
Stephen Sullivan TE LSU 192.7 Und. 230 139
Salvon Ahmed RB Washington 193.2 Und. 231 140
Jauan Jennings WR Tennessee 193.2 Und. 233 139
Alohi Gilman S Notre Dame 194.2 Und. 234 141
Zach Shackelford C Texas 195.1 Und. 235 143
Stanford Samuels III CB Florida State 195.2 Und. 237 143
Joe Reed WR Virginia 195.6 Und. 238 144
Shane Lemieux OG Oregon 196.7 Und. 240 146
Binjimen Victor WR Ohio State 197.4 Und. 243 147
Nate Stanley QB Iowa 198.7 Und. 244 150

*“Worst case,” “median” and “best case” picks represent the player’s 5th, 50th and 95th percentile picks in ESPN’s draft projection model.

Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group

There are many interesting insights within the draft model. Here are its biggest takeaways for the top of the first round:

Joe Burrow is almost certainly going first overall

According to the model, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow has an 87 percent chance of being picked first overall in the draft — which means that, barring some kind of crazy trade, he’s very likely to join the Bengals, who have the No. 1 pick. And if he’s not first, there’s a 12 percent chance that Burrow goes second. So the odds that Burrow is still available by the No. 3 pick, according to the ESPN model, are less than 1 percent:

Joe Burrow’s name is getting called early

Chance that LSU QB Joe Burrow will be drafted at a given pick slot, according to ESPN’s draft prediction model

Pick No. Chance Burrow Is Drafted
1 86.9%
2 12.2
3 0.9

Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group

It makes sense: Burrow is coming off a historic campaign in which he won the Heisman Trophy and led LSU to a national championship. If he also goes No. 1, he would become just the fourth player ever to pull off that trifecta in the same season. He’s the consensus top pick for a reason.

The model is far less sure about where the next QBs will land

The consensus second-ranked QB prospect, Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, actually has a 6 percent chance of going first. But he also has a 15 percent chance of falling outside the top five picks, which should tell you about the amount of uncertainty around Tagovailoa’s projection in the model:

Will Tua be a top three pick?

Chance that Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa will be drafted at a given pick slot, according to ESPN’s draft prediction model

Pick No. Chance Tagovailoa Is Drafted
1 6.1%
2 9.4
3 45.4
4 6.0
5 17.8
6 8.0
7 4.3
8 1.5
9 0.9
10 0.4
11 0.1

Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group

The biggest question around Tagovailoa might be whether the Miami Dolphins, who need a quarterback, should trade up from No. 5 to take him early. The model sees only a 33 percent chance that he’ll still be available at No. 5, with the most likely landing spot being Detroit with the No. 3 pick (45 percent). But are the Lions ready to move on from Matthew Stafford? (Maybe they take CB Jeff Okudah instead.) There’s just enough unpredictability to make Tagovailoa’s destination a mystery.

A similar story can be told about the other top QB prospects, Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Utah State’s Jordan Love. According to the model, there’s a 79 percent chance that Herbert will go fifth, sixth or seventh, though there’s some chance he goes as high as second and as low as 12th. (Both of those outlier scenarios have about a 1 percent chance of happening.) Love’s projection has even greater variability; the model thinks there’s a 95 percent chance that he will be picked between Nos. 12 and 40 in the draft.

Where the heck will Jordan Love land?

Odds that Utah State QB Jordan Love will be taken at a given pick slot, according to ESPN’s draft prediction model

Picks No. Chance Love Is Drafted
1-5 <0.1%
6-10 0.9
11-15 7.6
16-20 44.5
21-25 21.3
26-30 11.2
31-35 7.2
36-40 5.1
41-45 1.4
46-50 0.5
51-55 0.2
56-60 0.2

Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group

Ohio State defenders are going to have a top five party

Buckeyes DE Chase Young, who might be the most talented player in this draft class (even if he isn’t picked first), is a virtual lock for a top-three pick, with a 98 percent chance according to the model. It also thinks there’s a 76 percent chance that Young is either the first or second player off the board, though there is just a 5 percent chance he’s taken over Burrow.

Chase Young is an overwhelmingly likely top three pick

Chance that Ohio State DE Chase Young will be drafted at a given pick slot, according to ESPN’s draft prediction model

Pick No. Chance Young Is Drafted
1 5.3%
2 70.7
3 22.4
4 1.7

Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group

His teammate, Okudah, could be drafted nearly as high. The model thinks there’s a 79 percent chance that the All-American corner is taken with either the third or fourth overall pick, with the most likely destination being the New York Giants at No. 4. That means fully half of the top four picks on Thursday could be members of the 2019 Ohio State defense — and those Buckeyes could be half of the four defenders predicted for the top 10, including Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons and Auburn DT Derrick Brown.

It could be another tough draft for running backs

No running back was taken in last year’s draft until the Oakland Raiders took Josh Jacobs at No. 24 overall, snapping a three-year streak of ball-carriers going in the top five. And if the ESPN model is any indicator, this year won’t be a banner year for running backs, either. In terms of average draft position,1 the top RBs figure to be Georgia’s D’Andre Swift and Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, followed by Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins and LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire. None is expected to go very high, though — in fact, they all might fall outside the first round:

When will the top running backs be picked?

Projected draft-pick distribution for the top five running backs in the 2020 NFL draft, according to ESPN’s draft prediction model

Pick Distribution
Player School Avg Pick Worst Case Median Best Case
D’Andre Swift Georgia 35.4 53 34 25
Jonathan Taylor Wisconsin 36.9 61 35 20
J.K. Dobbins Ohio State 51.2 76 52 26
Clyde Edwards-Helaire LSU 59.2 79 59 39
Cam Akers Florida State 66.6 96 67 42

“Worst case,” “median” and “best case” picks represent the player’s 5th, 50th and 95th percentile picks in ESPN’s draft projection model.

Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group

Suffice to say, those average pick numbers are not encouraging. There’s a 1 percent chance Taylor is taken as high as 16th and a 6 percent chance he goes in the top 20, easily the best chance for any running back in this class. (Dobbins has a 1.6 percent shot at the top 20; Swift’s probability is 0.6 percent.) But it’s likely that the top RBs will have to wait quite a while before their names are called.

It’s anybody’s guess where Xavier McKinney and James Lynch might go

Generally speaking, the model sees a pretty small range of picks for most top prospects. Not everyone is like Burrow, of course — the LSU signal-caller is literally projected to go either first, second or third … and that’s it. But players with mid-first-round talent generally aren’t projected to drop much more than, say, the 35th pick or so, even in their worst-case scenarios.

Alabama safety Xavier McKinney is different. The model thinks McKinney could realistically go 12th or higher (7 percent chance) … or slip to the 53rd pick or lower (5 percent):

Among players projected as likely first-round picks, McKinney has the widest range of potential draft outcomes, reflecting the chance that he slides to the end of the second round (or maybe even beyond) if he doesn’t end up going in the first.

McKinney isn’t alone in his draft uncertainty. Baylor DE James Lynch has an even crazier-looking distribution of potential pick destinations, ranging from the middle of the first round on the high side to the late fourth round on the low side:


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CORRECTION (April 22, 2020, 9:55 a.m.): An earlier version of the overall prediction table in this article incorrectly handled players’ chances of going undrafted when calculating the average draft pick. As a result, some players were shown as being picked earlier than they should have been. The table has been updated.

Footnotes

  1. Implied by the sum of probabilities of a player being taken at each slot.

Neil Paine is a senior writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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