Despite these uncertain times, the 2020 NFL Draft will proceed as planned. But because of the COVID-19 outbreak, the 2020 NFL draft will be held virtually for the first time in league history. Commissioner Roger Goodell will announce this year’s selections from his home in New York in an effort to encourage social distancing. ESPN and NFL Network will team up to broadcast this year’s draft. A result of both networks are using limited personnel due to the coronavirus pandemic. Both networks had originally planned separate broadcasts.
Thankfully the NFL found a way to keep the draft going. Not just for the fans, or for the journalists who cover the league, but for the players who are looking to make their pro football dreams come true. To nobody’s surprise, there are a few Latinx players hoping to hear their names called by the commissioner next weekend. As the NFL continues to diversify, more Latino’s are playing the game, which in turn draws in more Latino fans.
So here are a few NFL hopefuls in the 2020 NFL Draft who are looking to add to the league’s demographic.
Steven Montez, QB, Colorado
Football is in Montez’s blood. His father, Alfred, played collegiately at both Texas Tech and Western New Mexico. He also spent some brief time with the Oakland Raiders (1996). Steven looks to continue his family legacy in the sport. During his time in Boulder the Buffaloes posted a 25-23 record, won the Pac-12 South Division title in 2016, and played in the 2016 Alamo Bowl. Montez accounted for 10,681 total yards of offense (passing, rushing, receiving) and was responsible for 75 total touchdowns.
He completed 62.4 percent of his passes, averaged 7.4 yards per pass attempt and finished with a collegiate passer rating of 134.9. The 33 interceptions that Montez threw, however, show that his decision making needs some improvement. His arm strength has also been questioned on occasion. Yet his mobility, consistency and durability will convince a team to give him an opportunity.
Pete Guerriero, Running Back, Monmouth
Guerriero ran track in addition to playing football for the Hawks. He’s taking a huge chance by leaving school with one year of eligibility remaining, and entering a crowded running back field for this year’s draft. But Guerriero managed to stand out in a Hawks uniform. He finished the 2019 season as the Football Championship Subdivision’s leading rusher with 1,995 yards and 18 touchdowns. He also displayed versatility as a pass catcher and a kick returner.
Running track certainly helps with speed and explosiveness. While he can’t shake the label of his small stature (5-foot-11, 190 pounds), or the fact that he came from a smaller school. His track speed and ability to play special teams will help him land with an NFL franchise.
Cesar Ruiz, Offensive Line, Michigan
As another early entrant into the draft. Ruiz will forego his senior season. He has 36 games of experience under his belt. Ruiz was the leader of a Wolverines offensive line that cleared the way for 15,209 yards of total offense with 136 touchdowns from 2017 to 2019. Speaking of 2019. that was the most productive season for Ruiz as the Wolverines offense averaged 401 yards and 31 points per game. Ruiz can play both guard and center. He’s dominant as a run blocker and dependable in pass protection.
Did we mention he’s a two-time All-Big Ten Conference honoree. The highest rated center in this year’s draft according to NFL.com. He’s also fifth highest rated offensive lineman, and the 25th best prospect overall. Ruiz was Michigan’s only Latinx offensive player last season. Ruiz could be the first lineman drafted this year.
Trystan Colon-Castillo, Center, Missouri
In 2019, Colon-Castillo centered an offensive line that didn’t allow more than two sacks or six tackles for loss per game. Thanks in part to Colon-Castillo’s efforts, the Tigers front line did a solid job of protecting quarterback (and fellow 2020 draft prospect) Kelly Bryant who recorded 2,215 passing yards, 242 rushing yards, and accounted for 16 total touchdowns. He’s also a tough run blocker as well which helped the Tigers rush for 1,820 yards and 14 scores as a team. Center is most difficult position to play next to quarterback, and teams are always looking for depth at the position. Colon-Castillo projects to be a day-three selection.
Jabari Zuniga, Edge Rusher, Florida
Jabari comes from an athletic family. His father, Carlos, averaged 11 points per game for Tulane University’s basketball team from 1976-1979. But Jabari chose the gridiron over the hardwood and became a quarterback’s worse nightmare in the process. Zuniga made 116 total tackles, 33 tackles for loss in 39 games for the Gators. He played defensive end in college, but scouts say he can also play outside linebacker due to his size (6-foot-4, 246 pounds) and speed (ran a 4.6 40-yard dash at February’s NFL Scouting Combine). Zuniga will be a strong addition to any defense in the league.
Rodrigo Blankenship, Kicker, Georgia
At first he catches your attention with his signature mustache and thick glasses. But then he amazes you with his leg strength. Blakenship started off playing soccer but switched to American Football after his father asked him to attempt a field goal -which he converted- at the age of 10. Today, Blankenship is one of the best kickers in Bulldogs history.
He’s the school’s all-time leader in extra points made (converted all 200 of his attempts), points scored (440), and field goal percentage (82.5). He also ranks second in field goals made (80), third in field goal attempts (97), and he’s NFL.com’s highest rated kicker in this year’s draft. Speaking of his 80 successful field goals; 21 of them were made from beyond 30 yards, 23 came from beyond 40 yards, and six were converted from beyond 50 yards (career long is 55 yards). The NFL has a strong history of successful Latino kickers and Blankenship looks to be the next in line.