NFL Draft 2020: Agents share how coronavirus changes impact prospects

NFL Draft 2020: Agents share how coronavirus changes impact prospects

The 2020 NFL Draft might favor players who were able to able to attend the Senior Bowl and the NFL Scouting Combine, because of pro days and in-person meetings being canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. But some agents believe teams have all the information they need to proceed on schedule.

Leigh Steinberg and Chris Cabott, from Steinberg Sports and Entertainment, spoke to NBC Sports Bay Area about how their preparation for the draft has been consistent to what they’ve done in the past. Their agency represents Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, among other draft hopefuls.

Both longtime agents believe players who attended an All-Star event or the combine have an advantage, but that always has been the case. As in every draft, there will be players who exceed expectations and those who don’t live up to them.

“When I first started in the industry in 1975 with Steve Bartkowski, there were no pro days, no team meetings, no combine,” Steinberg said. “If you look at statistics from players then, to those selected in 2005, the players in 1975 were more successful and productive. 

“Teams obviously believe that the more information they have, the better, but at some point, it’s enough. I believe they have enough information to make educated and prudent choices.”

Brett Tessler, who represents 49ers running back Raheem Mostert, believes players who weren’t able to attend or weren’t invited to the combine are at a disadvantage across the board. An off-the-radar player won’t have the chance to catch a scout or coach’s eye at a local pro day and jump up a team’s draft board.

“For most non-combine guys, it's going to put everybody at an equal disadvantage,” Tessler told NBC Sports Bay Area. “Teams will rely more on the spring testing numbers that they got prior to this season.

“But, the biggest disadvantage for non-combine guys trying to get drafted is the lack of being brought in for pre-draft visits, where the medical staffs can do all the background work on these guys that they need to do.”

Just like everyone across the nation, players, agents and teams are taking advantage of video conferencing technology such as Zoom and Skype for their 30 one-on-one pre-draft visits. This actually might be the one advantage for players who have grown up with video calls as the norm.

[RELATED: Why Kentucky's Bowden is intriguing for Shanahan, 49ers]

As in the past, teams still have the ability to ask players schematic questions using a virtual chalkboard, and go over game film during video conferencing sessions. Cabott also believes one resource could be more important than in previous pre-draft research.

“Trainers,” Cabott said. “Those guys who were working with players, getting them ready for pro days will have information that will be important for teams. They can give projections, send videos of testing and have insight to a player’s work ethic.”

2020 NFL Draft: Three possible Emmanuel Sanders replacements for 49ers

2020 NFL Draft: Three possible Emmanuel Sanders replacements for 49ers

The 49ers have taken a wide receiver in the second round of the past two drafts.

Dante Pettis, whom the club traded up to select in 2018, showed promise as a rookie before taking a tumble down the depth chart a year ago. Deebo Samuel had an impressive rookie season and got better and better as the year progressed.

Veteran receiver Emmanuel Sanders is scheduled for unrestricted free agency. The 49ers will have to pay him a nice chunk of money to retain his services. If he leaves, the 49ers can look to add a talented player from what looks to be one of the best drafts for wide receivers in years.

“It’s a really good class,” 49ers general manager John Lynch said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. “You can kind of get whatever flavor you like.

“If you like smaller, quicker guys, those guys are there. If you like the big guys that can move, those guys are there. If you like speed, that's there. If you like separators. ... So, I think the whole league's kind of smiling about that.”

The 49ers own the No. 31 overall pick. After that, they are not scheduled to pick again until the fifth round. The 49ers will likely try to trade out of the first round to acquire picks on Day 2. Here are three players they could target at various stages of the draft if Sanders signs elsewhere.

Denzel Mims, Baylor

Denzel Mims has the size (6-foot-3, 207 pounds), straight-line speed (4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash), change of direction (6.66 in the three-cone drill, tops at the combine) and a willingness to be physical.

"I take blocking very serious,” Mims said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I feel like you have to run the ball in this game. You can't just pass every single down. And, so, if I open up the blocking game, it will open up the passing game. And, so, if I block for my teammates, then they'll block for me and the quarterback so I can get the ball.”

Mims concluded his college career with 66 receptions for 1,020 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior in 2019. He figures to be selected in the late-first or early-second round.

Aaron Parker, Rhode Island

Aaron Parker (6-2, 209) has a basketball background and one of the top three-cone times (6.94) at the combine. Coach Kyle Shanahan will see a wide receiver who can get open quickly against man coverage on choice routes. Also, he is not afraid to go over the middle to catch passes in traffic.

Parker was not the only Rhode Island receiver at the combine. His teammate, Isaiah Coulter, ran better than Parker, clocking a 4.45 in the 40. Coulter also stands 6-2, but his short-area quickness and change-of-direction is not nearly as good as Parker’s.

[RELATED49ers re-signing Sanders means one fewer unknown]

Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State

Isaiah Hodgins (6-4, 210) has ideal size and the ability to separate quickly off the line of scrimmage. He provides a matchup problem for most cornerbacks on the outside with his length. That showed up last season in college, as he caught 86 passes for 1,171 yards and 13 touchdowns.

For perspective, Hodgins is 5 inches taller than Deebo Samuel. Hodgins ran a 7.01 in the three-cone drill. Last year, Samuel ran a 7.03. Hodgins’ 20-yard shuttle was 4.12. Samuel’s was 4.14.

The run on wide receivers in the early rounds could leave a player such as Hodgins on the board longer than during a typical draft year.

2020 NFL Draft offers 49ers potential replacements for Jimmie Ward

2020 NFL Draft offers 49ers potential replacements for Jimmie Ward

If Jimmie Ward does not return to the 49ers, the club can be expected to plug in a younger, less-expensive player to replace him.

It could be Tarvarius Moore, who is back at his natural position of free safety after spending his rookie season of 2018 learning the craft of cornerback.

But the 49ers could also be expected to add to their depth and competition with the selection of a safety in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The 49ers own the No. 31 overall pick in the draft. After that, they do not have another selection until the fifth round. Here are some of their options, whether they keep their first-round pick or can move back to obtain selections on Day 2:

Antoine Winfield Jr., Minnesota

Do not let his size fool you. At 5-foot-9, 203 pounds, Antoine Winfield Jr. has some limitations. But he has the instincts, smarts and playmaking ability to make up for his, um, shortcomings.

“I think versatility is my best attribute,” Winfield said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “I can pretty much play anywhere. Also, create takeaways. That’s my goal, to create takeaways for my team and that gives us the best opportunity to win. I’m going to do everything in my power to do that.”

He had seven interceptions last season before declaring for the draft.

Kyle Dugger, Lenoir-Rhyne

Kyle Dugger (6-1, 217) is a small-college player who continues to attract a lot of attention as a possible pick late in the first round or the second round. The 49ers have gone to having their safeties become more interchangeable, and Dugger has the ability to play center field or close to the line of scrimmage.

What does not get talked about as much?

“Probably my intelligence and my hunger for the game, my hunger to be a great player,” he said at the combine. “I feel that’s something that’s not been said too much."

[RELATED: Why 49ers might not be able to sign Ward to long-term deal]

Ashtyn Davis, California

Ashtyn Davis (6-1, 202) set the Cal record in the 60-meter hurdles during the indoor track season. He was the Pac-12 champion in the 110 hurdles. His athleticism is obvious, as the Santa Cruz native proved on Instagram when he took a leap off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean.

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“I've played corner, I've played nickel, even (linebacker) in a couple of packages and, obviously safety,” he said. “So I think that I'm comfortable everywhere on the field. But I think that my deep defense is my best attribute.”

Davis had six interceptions over his final two college seasons.