With the 2020 NFL regular season ending, it is time to look back on this year’s draft class.
In a weird, abnormal season due to COVID, many rookies stepped up and shone bright.
The five nominees for NFL Rookie of the Year are out, and the Bucs' Tristan Wirfs and Antoine Winfield missed the cut — it's QB Justin Herbert, WR Justin Jefferson, RB James Robinson, RB Jonathan Taylor and DE Chase Young.
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) January 8, 2021
This included many of the players who were expected to enter the league and become contributors right away.
However, there were many that appeared to come out of nowhere.
We can now take a look and analyze who the steals of the draft were.
1. Justin Jefferson, WR, Vikings
While Jefferson was the 22nd overall selection to the Minnesota Vikings, he produced at a much higher level.
There were also three other receivers selected ahead of him.
He quickly established himself as not only one of the best rookie receivers in the class, but also one of the NFL’s best.
Jefferson finished the year with a 90.5 receiving grade, finishing in second to only Davante Adams.
This was also just short of the rookie record of 91.2 set by Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014.
His 1,400 receiving yards was good for fourth in the league, while he had the most yards per target on single coverage plays.
This also set the record for most receiving yards by a rookie in NFL history.
— NFL (@NFL) January 3, 2021
It was a consistent season of success for Jefferson.
While he had some off-games, he always seemed to bounce back with a solid game of 100-plus receiving yards.
For Vikings fans, it will be hard to disagree that they got a great steal with their first round pick.
2. Micahel Onwenu, OL, Patriots
Onwenu, the big offensive lineman out of Michagan, was selected by the New England Patriots in the sixth round.
Many times, players selected that low are needed to fill depth.
However, Onwenu stepped up for the Patriots and stood out in different spots on the line.
Michael Onwenu – Rising Star on the OL ⭐️ pic.twitter.com/iwsL7vqF9G
— PFF NE Patriots (@PFF_Patriots) January 8, 2021
During the season, he had over 80 snaps at the left guard, right guard and right tackle positions.
He spent most of his time at right tackle where he had never played in college.
Playing at a relatively foreign position, Onwenu shined.
In his 616 snaps there, he finished ranking 10th out of the 39 qualified right tackles in Pro Football Focus grade.
For a rookie to do that after being the sixth-round selection is exemplary.
Based on his performance from this season, it seems like the Patriots got a steal for the line late in the draft.
3. Jonathan Taylor, RB, Colts
Taylor was drafted by the Indianapolis Colts with the 41st selection.
The burly running back out of Wisconsin was twice named the top running back in college football.
He wasted little time translating that success to the NFL.
In their Week 2 matchup against the Vikings, he rushed for 101 yards.
Following that game, he continued playing well but not amazing.
However, he once again broke out during Week 11.
This started a stretch of games where Taylor dominated, putting up at least 74 yards in each of his last seven games.
Over this time, he ranked only behind Derrick Henry for the highest rushing grade in the NFL.
— Lawrence Owen NFL (@Colts_Law) January 3, 2021
His Week 17 performance was most notable, as he rushed for a staggering 253 yards and two TDs.
He finished the season with 1,169 rushing yards, 11 rushing TDs and 299 receiving yards.
While he was the beneficiary of a strong Colts line, the production from their second-round pick looks promising.
Each of these players came into this season with low expectations.
They weren’t’ anticipated to come in and make a major impact to their respective teams.
However, each of them stepped up to play even better on the field.
After their rookie seasons, these are three of the best steals from the 2020 NFL draft.