We’re only a few days away from the NFL draft — also known as Football Nerd Christmas. That means it’s time for my annual All-Juice Team, where I recognize 22 prospects because of their combination of effort, attitude and performance.
I dubbed this the “All-Juice” team in 2015 because juice is a phrase that, in football terms, means having the goods.
In general, my track record has been OK. Like any well-meaning prognosticator, I’ve had some home runs like Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson, the NFL’s past two MVPs, and some huge whiffs like Paxton Lynch in 2016. I’ve been most proud of my ability to identify a handful of players that the Kansas City Chiefs, the team I covered prior to joining Yahoo Sports, ended up drafting, a streak that began in 2015. The most recent was Khalen Saunders. The focus may be the whole league now, but yeah, it’d be awesome to keep that streak going.
I’m also proud of last year’s team, which included several instant-impact players like Kyler Murray, Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, Dalton Risner, Devin Bush Jr. and Darnell Savage Jr.
I’ve picked players I’ve heard good things about during the pre-draft process. Just to be clear, I took no more than two players from each of the following tiers of prospects (who have been assigned grades based on where I think they’ll be taken in the draft):
7.5-7.1: Top 10 pick
6.8: Top half of the second round
6.7: Bottom half of the second
6.6: Top half of the third round
6.5: Bottom half of the third
6.4: Fourth-round pick
6.3: Fifth-round pick
6.2: Sixth-round pick
6.1: Seventh-round pick
6.0: Priority free agent
There are some painful omissions since the strategy was to build the team the way a smart NFL franchise would: by picking the best combination of players at quarterback, receiver/tight end, left tackle, edge rusher, defensive tackle and cornerback, and surrounding them with alphas, athletes and edgy players who love football.
Joe Burrow is the safest/best quarterback prospect in this draft, but I adore Chase Young and Jeff Okudah and opted to spend my two top-10 slots on them. This left a tough choice between Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa. Tua’s injury issues are a concern, and with this being a loaded draft in the first round, I used my two 7.0 slots on two can’t-miss guys in Patrick Queen and Jerry Jeudy. Hurts is the pick here because of his remarkable elusiveness and overall playmaking ability, better accuracy than you think and outstanding intangibles/mental toughness. The 6-foot-1, 222-pounder still needs to develop as a passer, particularly when it comes to throwing with anticipation, but never bet against players with off-the-chart intangibles and outstanding athleticism. Grade: 6.6
Football matters to Dobbins, a team captain at Ohio State whose vision, powerful build (5-9, 209) and ability to slip tackles make him one of the draft’s safest backs. Dobbins has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his three college seasons, and he’s a scheme-versatile running back who never missed a game and always seemed to come up big in the Buckeyes’ biggest games (see: Michigan ’19). Grade: 6.8
With this year’s receiving corp shaping up to be arguably the best in a decade, it says plenty that Jeudy (6-1, 193) might be the best of the bunch. Jeudy is the draft’s best route runner, thanks to his downfield speed, lightning-quick feet and innate feel for creating separation. There were multiple times the past two seasons when he made defenders look foolish. He’s downright difficult to corral after the catch, and while he didn’t test at an elite level and he had some focus drops, it’s hard to turn on the tape and see anything other than a receiver whose skills should help him continue to get open in the NFL. I love this player, and he’ll even block a little bit when the ball is in his vicinity. Grade: 7.0
Can you say “juice,” “juice” and “more juice”? Reagor (5-11, 206) can fly, and while his 2019 stats were middling — 43 catches, 611 yards and five touchdowns — the Horned Frogs’ quarterback play wasn’t great. His 2018 season — 72 catches, 1,061 yards, nine touchdowns — is more consistent with who he is as a player. Like Jeudy, Reagor had some focus drops this year, but he’s electric with the ball in his hands, adept at making defenders miss and he has the downfield speed to get behind a defense and bend coverage his way. There is no shortage of teams who need a deep threat, and it wouldn’t be a stretch if a team wanted to take Reagor higher than this grade, like in the top 40. Grade: 6.7
Proche isn’t tall, but at 5-11 and 201 pounds, his competitiveness and proven contested catch ability helps him make up for that. He’ll need to keep working to have that translate to the NFL, where defensive backs are bigger and stronger, but I love his proven production. He was a four-year starter with 301 career receptions. His competitive nature flashed on tape when he blocks. He’s quick enough to get open in the league and given the depth of this receiver class, he has a chance to be a Day 3 pick who provides nice value down the road, especially since he also brings some return ability to the table. Grade: 6.2
This year’s tight end class isn’t great, but if a team seeks an athletic pass catcher with size (6-5, 255) and natural ball skills — who isn’t after the way George Kittle and Travis Kelce tortured teams in 2019 — then Trautman is their man. He didn’t play the greatest of competition as Dayton plays in FCS, but Trautman’s smooth route running and soft hands were on full display at the Senior Bowl, where evaluators came away impressed. Some small-school tight ends have busted in recent years, so that may hurt Trautman. Given how important the tight end position is and how weak this draft is there, there seems to be a good chance he’ll go on Day 2. Grade: 6.7
Don’t sleep on Bartch because of his school. The 6-6, 309-pounder was the only Division III player invited to the Senior Bowl, where he impressed scouts with his size, power and movement. He might stick on the edge once he gets used to NFL speed and power. It will be a jump for him so he might need a “redshirt” year in the NFL. At worst, he’s a guard whose durability and athleticism give him a chance to be a superb mid-round value and above-average NFL starter at a few spots across the O-line. Grade: 6.4
The fun of the All-Juice Team is that I force myself to add some late-round guys instead of stacking it with a bunch of first-round picks. So when picking the late-round players, I seek value, and it’s here with Muti, who has played in only five games the past two seasons due to injuries. He kicked a lot of butt in 2017, his last full season as a starter. Muti (6-3, 315) is a good athlete for a big man and a powerful one, too; his 44 reps on the bench press at the combine were eye-popping. So was his 2017 tape, which featured him man-handling and regularly destroying 280-pound men with his power and relentless effort. Get this guy a team with a great training and strength and conditioning staff and hope for the best. Grade: 6.2
Hennessy brings good size (6-4, 307), enough athleticism and a workman-like attitude to the center position, as he diligently works to reach and complete every block. He’s the type of center who zone teams should especially love, with his ability to work to the second level and find targets. He’ll get better on gap blocking as he gets older and stronger. His smooth pass sets and intelligence should help him be an immediate contributor who gets better as he adds experience and strength. Grade: 6.5
My kind of guard — big (6-6, 317) durable and exceedingly tough/nasty (14 penalties in 2019). He plays to the whistle and loves to bury guys, and while he’s not a great athlete for the position, guards often don’t need to be. It’s hard to find capable offensive linemen these days, and Stenberg’s strengths give him a chance to be a consistent contributor. Grade: 6.4
You can go ahead and copy most of what I wrote about Muti and paste it here with the monstrous Adams (6-8, 318), who looked like a potential top-10 draft pick as a sophomore in 2016 but has since seen his stock plummet due to injuries suffered in 2017 and 2018. Adams’ 2019 tape wasn’t as good as it was early in his career, but at age 23, I can’t help but wonder if a team with a good medical and strength and conditioning staff can help him reshape his body and recapture his old form. It’s worth the risk. Grade: 6.1
One of the easiest evaluations in this class, as Young’s outstanding size (6-5, 264), athleticism and production make him look like the next Julius Peppers. He was even named a team captain at Ohio State as a true junior, making him the safest pick in the draft. Washington, which is picking No. 2, doesn’t necessarily need a defensive end, but it should race to the stage and take Young on draft night. Grade: 7.5
Marino turns 26 this year, and that’ll turn some teams off. So will his lack of size/length as he’s a shade over 6-1 with 31-inch arms. But the 288-pounder plays with enthusiasm and edge, and if a team needs a sleeper in this COVID-19 world that might make it hard for rookies to contribute immediately, it’s probably not a bad idea to go with an older, physically maxed-out player who gives great effort and has a notable initial jolt. Grade: 6.1
Willekes isn’t the type of player who will wow at a scouting combine, but I don’t like betting against tough, productive, nasty defensive players with massive chips on their shoulders. Willekes (6-4, 264) is a good enough athlete who plays with power and willed himself into being a star at Michigan State after working his way up from walk-on status. He’ll work his tail off to turn himself into a rotational contributor, at worst, in the pros. Grade: 6.3
You’ll notice a trend with the three linebackers on this team, namely being that they have the speed and athleticism to cover in the NFL. Baun (6-2, 238) has that, in addition to some strong pass-rushing ability as his 12½ sacks in 2019 would attest. These traits make him an intriguing weapon for a creative defensive coordinator, someone who can be a three-down player and impact the game in different ways. He was flagged for a diluted urine sample he provided at the scouting combine, so his stock could be negatively affected. But under the new CBA, it won’t count as a strike. Grade: 6.9
When I interviewed Queen at the combine, I came away thoroughly impressed with him. He isn’t very big (6-0, 229), but he’s an earnest and hard worker whose field speed is insane. A former high school running back, Queen needed some time to adjust to playing middle linebacker in the SEC. He studied diligently under Devin White (the fifth overall pick in 2018) and became a star in his own right in 2019, racking up 85 tackles (12 for loss). He’s still developing his instincts, but his athleticism gives him a chance to be a pure three-down linebacker with high value in passing situations. Grade: 7.0
Here’s another player whose passion and enthusiasm for football were impressive during an interview at the combine. It was evident why he was a team captain as a true sophomore, which is incredibly difficult to do at a school like OU. Murray is big (6-2, 241) and very athletic; he covers a ton of ground, allowing him to rack up 100-plus tackles the past two years. He’s also a dyed-in-the-wool energy giver, as his nickname (K9) is a nod to the first initial of his first name and jersey number, and his on-field mentality. The man is a “dawg,” and he’ll improve his instincts, eyes and cover ability because the game matters to him. In the meantime, a smart defensive coordinator would let him attack downhill on blitzes or be a run-and-chase “Will” and let him rack up the tackles. Grade: 6.9
There were at least two times this season where I watched Okudah and wondered why teams were even bothering throwing at him. He is the latest in a long line of great Ohio State corners. He’s every bit the prospect Marshon Lattimore, another OSU All-Juice corner, was as he began his career as the 2017 Defensive Rookie of the Year. Okudah is very serious about football, which shows in his dedication to his technique, disciplined play (zero coverage penalties in 2019) and ability to stay disciplined when the ball is in the air. Combine that with his Grade A size/length (6-1, 205) and super-quick feet, and he has the makings of a future All-Pro. Love him. Grade: 7.4
The son of a former NFL Pro Bowler of the same name, Winfield Jr. is a stone-cold playmaker. His instincts are good, and he has some return ability and ball skills (his ’19 tape is littered with him skying in from nowhere to make plays on the ball). His grade would be higher if it weren’t for his size (5-9, 203) and injury history (he missed parts of the 2017 and 2018 seasons), but some team will take him in Round 2 or 3, knowing that his coverage skills will make him a difference maker. Grade: 6.6
Underrated energy giver whose motor, quick diagnosing capability and willingness to lay a big hit on people — and start yapping afterward — stand out. Stone isn’t very tall (5-10) and he’s not an elite athlete, but he plays with toughness and physicality, and is good enough to go early on Day 3 of the draft, especially if he goes to a team that values his high football character and plays a zone scheme that will allow him to rely on his superb instincts. Grade: 6.4
Your All-Juice nickel corner is the epitome of what this team is about. Few compete like Robertson, who plays with a nasty edge and makes sure opponents feel every bit of his 5-8, 187-pound frame. I also like his awareness. He’s not averse to drifting off his man and making a play on the ball elsewhere when possible, a trait only true ballhawks possess. His 14 career interceptions are a testament to that. Grade: 6.5
An uber-competitive cornerback with ball skills, toughness and athleticism, Gladney (5-10, 191) is the type of corner needed for a team to succeed in today’s NFL. A “dawg” through and through, he always seems to be right on his man’s hip, ready to make a play on the ball – and let him know about it afterward. If he’d tested better, he’d be a cinch to go in the first round. Still, teams love his tape and demeanor so much that it hasn’t stopped the top-32 chatter. Grade: 6.8
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