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A look at Stanford and Cal’s 2020 NFL Draft prospects

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With the 2020 NFL draft a little over five months away, it’s not too early to begin looking potential draftees. Both Stanford and Cal, who will be playing their 122nd Big Game on Saturday, have several draftee hopefuls. The 2019 NFL Draft marked the second time in the last five years in which no Cal player was drafted, but that probably won’t be the case this year. Stanford, on the other hand, had five players drafted last year and will be looking to build on that number this year. However, injuries to NFL-caliber players this year have put their draft projections into question. Here are four potential draftees from each team.

K.J. Costello, Stanford QB

There was potential for Costello to go to the NFL after a breakout 2018 season — he started all 13 games for the Cardinal and was named to the All-Pac-12 second team with 3,540 yards and 29 touchdowns on 269-of-413 passing (65.1%). But his senior season has not been as promising as anticipated. He suffered a head injury in the season opener against Northwestern, forcing him to miss the following game. He returned to action against UCF and Oregon, but a thumb injury put him on the shelf for the following three games. He returned against Arizona and Colorado before reaggravating his thumb and missing the Washington State matchup. In 2019, Costello only has 1,038 passing yards and six touchdowns. It is safe to say that his injury-riddled 2019 season has hurt his draft stock. If Costello decides to enter the draft, expect him to go in the later rounds or sign as an undrafted free agent. Quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson and Deshaun Watson are changing the quarterback position, but for traditionalist teams looking for a pure pocket passer, Costello should be on their radar. 

Walker Little, Stanford OT

Coming into the 2019 season, Little was projected as a top-10 pick. As a starting true freshman in 2017, he was a key ingredient of the Stanford run game that propelled Heisman runner-up Bryce Love ’19. Little improved his pass blocking the following season before entering the 2019 season as one of the best linemen in his class. However, a knee injury in the closing minutes of the season-opening game forced him out for the remainder of the year. Although Walker’s potential is still there, his stock has fallen a bit. He may want to consider returning for his senior year to increase his draft stock.

Colby Parkinson, Stanford TE

Parkinson was not known well around the country before 2019, but this season has turned out to be a breakout one for him. Through 10 games, he leads the Cardinal in receiving with 41 receptions, 492 yards and a touchdown. His 6’7” frame and 251 pounds provide a lot of upside. He is an excellent runner and pass blocker, and is a sufficient route runner who can be flexed out and create separation against defenders. His playing this year has shown why he should be considered as a top-five tight end in his class. He should be expected to be drafted somewhere in the middle rounds. 

Paulsen Adebo, Stanford CB

After not seeing action as a freshman in 2017, Adebo started 12 games of the 13 he appeared in during 2018. He was named to the All-Pac-12 first team and finished the season with 64 tackles (44 solo), and led the nation with 24 passes defended, including four interceptions. Through his nine games played this year, he has already matched last year’s interception total. He is very physical in jamming receivers in press coverage and has the size at 6’1” to make big plays against some of the best receivers in the nation. Adebo is considered a top cornerback in his class and is expected to go in the late first round to a team looking for a number one option at cornerback.

Evan Weaver, Cal LB

Weaver had a breakout season in 2018. He started for the Bears in all 13 of their games and finished with 159 total tackles and two interceptions. This season, he is on pace to surpass last year’s mark as he has already accumulated 151 total tackles with two games remaining in the regular season. He also has three forced fumbles. Weaver takes good angles when tackling, and he is a workhorse. He was recruited as a defensive end, adding value to his pass-rush ability. The downside is that he’s not too great in coverage, and in the pass-happy NFL league, expect Weaver to work on that aspect of his game. He is considered to be a middle- to late-round pick. 

Camryn Bynum, Cal DB

Bynum finished 2018 with 48 total tackles and 12 passes defended, two of those being interceptions. There was a potential of him entering the draft after his 2018 season, but he decided to return for his redshirt junior season. He is Cal’s best cornerback this year. Through ten games this season, he has 43 total tackles, including 27 solo ones, and eight passes defended, an interception being one of them. Bynum is good at following the ball all the way through and contesting every attempted pass. He matches up well against big receivers, something the NFL has plenty of. Bynum struggles against receivers with speed, however. Expect him to be drafted in the later rounds.

Ashtyn Davis, Cal S

After joining the team as a walk-on, Davis has become a leader on Cal’s defense. He finished last season with 56 total tackles, four interceptions and a fumble recovery. Not only does Davis play defense, but he can also contribute on kick returns. He had 629 return yards and a touchdown in 2018. This year, Davis will likely exceed his numbers from last year — he already has 49 total tackles, an interception, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. Despite fewer opportunities to return kicks this year, he has recorded 149 yards on kick returns. Davis can guard passes sideline-to-sideline and can track the ball well. He is also not afraid to step up and make a tackle. He is considered a top-five safety in his class and could be selected in the second or third round.

Jaylinn Hawkins, Cal S

Hawkins had a very strong 2018, leading Cal and the Pac-12 in interceptions with six, which was more than the four receptions he allowed. He also had 32 total tackles. This year, Hawkins has already surpassed his tackle total with 39. He has also recorded an interception, two forced fumbles and a sack. Hawkins has the size of an NFL safety at 6’2” and 210 pounds. He tackles very well, and when he gets an interception, he is very good at making a play with it. He will need to learn to be more disciplined — he had two targeting ejections in 2018. Overall, his skillset is balanced, making him a good choice in the middle rounds.

Contact Gerzain Guiterrez at gerzain ‘at’ stanford.edu.