How Could It Have Been Different?

It is that time of the year that we are all excited for, it’s Draft week! – How could it have been different?: The NFL 2020 Draft Prodigies.

With that in mind, a lot of folks will be curious about the upcoming draft and how it affects their redraft and dynasty fantasy football rosters.

It might however be wise to reign in just a little, and to assist with that, we will remember widely acclaimed draft candidates over the last three years, looking at their performances in college, the reason for those performances in college, how the transition to the NFL became difficult for said players and as a by-product and how difficult it can be for rookies to have a lasting career in the NFL.

This article will mainly focus on undrafted free agents (UDFAs) that were tipped for greatness going into the draft process. Looking at their college stats, where they were hopeful to be drafted in the 2020 draft and how their landing spots, competition and situation landed them in their current situations. We delve into what happened to each of the players and what could have been  and how could it have been different.

Bryce Perkins, QB (Virginia Cavaliers)

2020 Draft Status: UDFA, Los Angeles Rams

2020 Draft Projection: Rounds 4-6

Current Roster Status: Free Agent, 27 years old.

I know what you are thinking, how can a Super Bowl winner feature in this article?

Not only this, Perkins started a game (his only start so far) for the Rams last season, but we know who he is. That may be true but, this could have ended up a lot differently for Bryce Perkins.

Signing as a UDFA for the Rams aged 25, Perkins would have been glad to make a roster having missed out on a spot via the draft process. A lot of factors hindered Perkins whilst he was at college. Firstly, committing to the Arizona State Sun Devils after a monstrous high school career, it all looked up from there.

However, during his first two seasons at Arizona State, Perkins suffered a lot of setbacks. In his freshman year, he red-shirted his first season before being forced to sit out his sophomore season as a result of a neck injury suffered in an off-season practice session.

In 2017, Perkins transferred to NJCAA’s highly ranked Arizona Western who fell only to Last Chance U’s East Mississippi Community College that season. This was able to propel Perkins back into a Division I school with the Virginia Cavaliers.

His performances for Virginia included, being named the starter in both years, breaking the school record for total offense and beating it the following season and capping it off with a strong performance at the Orange Bowl. It seemed as though Perkins would be at least a Day 3 pick after demonstrating his ability and athleticism. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Perkins as his 5th senior quarterback during the 2019 off-season. In a draft class that featured Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, Jalen Hurts, Jordan Love and Joe Burrow, that is some feat.


2018 VIRGINIA JR 13 225 349 64.5 2680 7.7 25 9 147.5
2019 VIRGINIA SR 14 319 495 64.4 3530 7.1 22 12 134.2
CAREER OVERALL 27 544 844 64.5 6210 7.4 47 21 139.7


2018 VIRGINIA JR 13 212 923 4.4 9 1 9
2019 VIRGINIA SR 14 227 769 3.4 11
CAREER OVERALL 27 439 1692 3.9 20 1 9



Since being signed by the Los Angeles Rams, Perkins has had a very underwhelming career in the NFL. The Rams decided to part with Jared Goff prior to the 2021 season in a trade that saw former Georgia Bulldog Matthew Stafford head to Los Angeles. Perkins had a limited amount of opportunities. It was clear that Jared Goff had a question mark over his head going into the 2020 season but, the Rams didn’t opt to take a QB in the draft, leading to Perkins’ signing as a UDFA.

Perkins did get a start in 2022 due to injuries to both Matthew Stafford and John Woolford. He provided a steady enough hand but the Rams did not see him occupying the QB2 position and did not opt to tag Perkins, hoping to re-sign him on a cheaper contract during this off-season.

How could it have been different?

Bryce Perkins was unlucky not to be drafted. There were teams who were in need of a quarterback, in hindsight, throughout the 2020 season, namely the Denver Broncos, Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens, who signed Tyler Huntley as a UDFA out of Utah.

Perkins had done enough in Virginia to deserve a spot on a roster and perhaps late in Day 2 and definitely in Day 3 of the draft. A few teams drafted QBs which they had mostly disposed of by the start of the season. Had Perkins been drafted by the New Orleans Saints, or the Tennessee Titans it may have worked out differently.

Javon Leake, RB (Maryland Terrapins)

2020 Draft Status: UDFA, New York Giants

2020 Draft Projection: Rounds 6-7

Current Roster Status: Toronto Argonauts (CFL), 24 years old

We are digging deep with this one but New York Giants fans may remember this standout running back during their off-season camp in 2020.

Saquon Barkley would only play one game that season, leaving Wayne Gallman to become the lead back in New York with veterans Dion Lewis and Alfred Morris as backups.

Signed as a UDFA by the Giants, Leake could not have picked a better landing spot than the Giants after an impressive season with the Terrapins, which saw him match in statistics fellow Terrapin running back Anthony McFarland, drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 4th round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Featuring in each of his three years for the University of Maryland, Leake had an impressive average of 7.9 yards per rush. With heavy competition in 2018, battling for carries with Ty Johnson and Jake Funk.

He spent a lot of time on special teams but with great speed and strength to match, Leake shone in all of his games and was able to showcase his ability when called upon and this was replicated in his sophomore and junior years, before declaring for the draft in 2020.

Comparatively, his running back partner Anthony McFarland Jr. in 2018 and 2019 played two years of college football, taking the lion’s share of carries in 2018, before Leake and McFarland split the load in 2019, with Leake bettering each of his counterpart’s rushing stats.

In 2018, with limited action, Leake was able to churn out great contributions leading the Terps with 7 touchdowns in 34 rushing attempts and maintaining an average of 9.1 yards per rush, before leading the Terps with 8 rushing TDs again in 2019 and adding an impressive 804 yards and 2 TDs from kick returns to his offensive stats earning himself the acclaim of Big Ten return specialist of the year.


2017 MARYLAND FR 7 99 11 2
2018 MARYLAND SO 11 34 309 9.1 7 1 4 4
2019 MARYLAND JR 12 102 736 7.2 8 9 55 6.1
CAREER OVERALL 30 145 1144 7.9 17 10 59 5.9


As mentioned, landing in New York and having been born in the Bronx, New York was a great spot for Javon Leake. The Giants had ageing running backs on their rosters in Gallman, Lewis and Morris and outside of the former Nittany Lion, Saquon Barkley, there was little to offer by way of youth in the running back corps. During the off-season practices, New York Giants beat writers could not get enough of Leake’s performances.

However, his sole position was to compete for the kick returner spot, as the Giants hadn’t scored a kickoff return since 2015. Instead, the Giants backroom staff ruffled feathers with Giants fans and elected to cut ties after Gallman impressed during camp, with fans blaming beat writers for hyping up Leake. He was re-signed to the Giants’ practice squad but would not feature. Leake was released later in the season before being picked up by the Washington Football Team.

Washington were inundated with running back competition having rostered Peyton Barber, Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Lamar Miller and Adrian Peterson throughout the season (with Bryce Love also rostered, on IR). Leake would mostly remain on Washington’s practice squad in a special teams capacity but did feature in one NFL game. However Leake recorded no stats.

2021 saw Leake join the Detroit Lions’ practice squad but this was also short-lived.

He currently plays for the Toronto Argonauts and had a good season in Toronto, helping the Argonauts to lift the Grey Cup featuring mostly on special teams returning 6 punts for a healthy 116 yards and 4 kickoffs for 80 yards as the Argonauts beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers 24-23.

How could it have been different?

Javon Leake was seriously unlucky not to be retained by the New York Giants after picking up a contract as a UDFA. With Joe Judge’s first season in charge of an NFL football team, he was taking no risks.

With Judge’s resumé up to that point being with the Patriots’ special teams he might have taken a small, but necessary risk to keep Leake rostered. It was interesting that given his prolificity on special teams that Leake wasn’t picked up by Judge, or another team. But, the Giants didn’t retain any of the running backs that ousted Leake for a spot when entering the 2021 season and by this point Leake had moved on.


Thaddeus Moss, TE (LSU Tigers)

2020 Draft Status: UDFA, Washington Football Team

2020 Draft Projection: Round 56

Current Roster Status: Birmingham Stallions (USFL), 24 years old

How does Joe Burrow’s record breaking college TE and the recipient of two touchdowns in the NCAA national championship game enter the draft without being picked and struggles to transition into the NFL?

The simple answer is misfortune with injuries.

Thaddeus Moss initially began his collegiate career with the North Carolina State Wolfpack as a freshman in 2016. Moss was the highest rated player in NC State’s 2016 recruiting class. However, he failed to get game time, playing in five games and recording a meagre 6 receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown.

In the spring of 2017 Moss announced he would transfer to LSU to play under Matt Canada who recruited Moss for NC State. As a result, Moss sat the 2017 season to satisfy NCAA transfer requirements.

By the time Thaddeus Moss qualified to play for the LSU Tigers, he was forced to miss an entire season after a fracture in his left foot required surgery and then corrective surgery thereafter, to solve the problem that wasn’t fixed the first time.

Once the heavy veil was lifted from Moss’ shoulders, he was able to put pads on those shoulders and get to work. Catching a record 47 passes for a record 570 yards (with 4 touchdowns to boot) were two school records for a TE. Moss had an electric playoff run with the championship winning LSU Tigers which saw him play a big part in the championship game.


2016 NC STATE FR 5 6 49 8.2 1
2019 LSU JR 12 47 570 12.1 4
CAREER OVERALL 17 53 619 11.7 5


Moss went undrafted, likely due to sustaining an injury to his right foot, almost identical to his 2018 injury at the NFL combine. Washington were thin on the ground at the tight end position having released Jordan Reed, leaving injury prone Logan Thomas, Jeremy Sprinkle and Richard Rodgers and so it can be assumed a healthy Moss would have received game time ahead of Sprinkle and Rodgers.

It wasn’t to be as Moss was placed on waivers with an injury designation and reverted to the team’s IR list before being waived in April 2021 without suiting up for the FT.

This proved to be a good opportunity for Moss as he was claimed on waivers three days later by the Cincinnati Bengals allowing Moss to link up with Joe Burrow once again.

He spent some time on the practice squad with the Bengals and suited up for one game, but never took the field after suffering a hamstring injury in the pregame warm up.

This was as close as Moss came to taking the field for the Bengals and spent time on their practice squad up until September 2022, unable to latch onto a team in the 2022 season, Moss sat out and waited until April 2023 before signing with the Birmingham Stallions, the inaugural winners of the United States Football League.

Everyone is rooting for Moss to finally get some game time so that we can all see him play. This could mean a productive career in the USFL or a way to be seen by NFL teams, so wish him the best of luck.

How could it have been different?

With injury after injury, it is tough to say that anything could have worked out differently for Moss. He landed in two good spots, that were tight end needy but just couldn’t get enough practices or any time on the field. Luckily Moss is still only 24 and tight ends tend to have longer careers in football. Time will tell for Moss and we hope time is in his favour.


Anthony Gordon, QB (Washington State Cougars)

2020 Draft Status: UDFA, Seattle Seahawks

2020 Draft Projection: Round 6-7

Current Roster Status: Free Agent, 25 years old

Ranked as the 9th best prospect at quarterback in the 2020 class, how has Anthony Gordon not seen the field?

In 2019, Gordon threw for a whopping 5,579 yards and 48 touchdowns, including one game where Gordon broke the school and Pac-12 record by throwing for 9 touchdowns in a single game (a game in which the Cougars lost the UCLA Bruins)! Fun fact: the quarterback who won the game for UCLA after they trailed 49-17 was 2023 NFL Draft hopeful Dorian ThompsonRobinson.

Gordon had a somewhat interesting start to his collegiate career, he was overlooked by every big school football program and was a zero, yes zero-star high school recruit. After breaking records at his high school in football, Gordon was drafted in 2015 by the New York Mets to play baseball.

He elected to ply his trade with football and headed to play with CCCAA football team, the City College of San Francisco Rams as did his father before him, where of course, Gordon excelled, throwing for 3,684 yards and 37 touchdowns and taking the Rams to their “mythical” championship game and Jim Harbaugh asked Gordon to walk-on at Michigan but offered no scholarship.

It was here where Gordon received his first offer with a college program that matched his talent and ambitions. Legendary Mike Leach of the Washington State Cougars, who also played a part in the discovery of Gardner Minshew playing in crimson and grey in 2018.

After transferring to Washington State in 2016, Gordon red-shirted his first year and did not feature in his second. It was only until his junior year that Gordon took to the field, as a back up to Minshew who won the Pac-12 offensive player of the year that season.


2018 WASHINGTON STATE JR 2 3 5 60 17 3.4 1 48.6
2019 WASHINGTON STATE SR 13 493 689 71.6 5579 8.1 48 16 157.9
CAREER OVERALL 15 544 844 64.5 5596 8.1 48 17 157.1


Having limited action thus far, Mike Leach surprised the conference by naming the relatively unknown Gordon as the starter for the 2019 season. Gordon grabbed the opportunity with both hands and began to turn heads with NFL scouts missing out on the passing leader stats in 2019 by 92 yards, to number 1 overall pick, Joe Burrow.

Likened to Patrick Mahomes with his versatile play and a nose for putting up big numbers, scouts leading into the NFL Draft praised Gordon for his arm strength and accuracy and his high Football IQ. Some scouts kept their reservations but it didn’t stop the Seahawks doing what they do best and searching for a diamond in the rough.

Gordon fought for the back up spot directly with the Seahawks’ current QB, Geno Smith which was a tough ask. Gordon was surprisingly waived in September 2020 after a good training camp and was not signed by the practice squad.

January 2021 saw Gordon sign a reserve contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. He was cut before the season started but was able to sign with the desperate Denver Broncos. However, this was too late in the season for anyone to give Gordon a chance to showcase his ability. After signing again with the Chiefs for a second time, albeit for two weeks, in April/ May 2022, Gordon has since been a free agent.

How could it have been different?

Gordon had a rare talent in his arm and versatility and did everything he could at both high school and college level and simply slipped through the net. As scouting is, and always has been an art as opposed to a science, this does happen with players at every position, as evidenced in this series. One thing for sure is that Wazzu fans will never forget Anthony Gordon.


James Robinson, RB (Illinois State Redbirds)

2020 Draft Status: UDFA, Jacksonville Jaguars

2020 Draft Projection: Rounds 6-7

Current Roster Status: New England Patriots, 24 years old

James Robinson was the diamond in the rough of this class, supported by his role as the lead running back for the Jacksonville Jaguars, amassing over 1,000 rushing yards in his first season with the Jags.

Breaking the record for the all-time rushing leader in Illinois high school history with 9,045 yards alongside 158 rushing touchdowns which ranks fifth all-time (one spot ahead of Derrick Henry) Robinson should have had his pick of schools but only received two college offers, Iowa and Illinois State, with Robinson choosing to remain in Illinois.

Finishing his college career, Robinson ranked as the second highest in school history for rushing yards, all-purpose yards and total touchdowns scored.

Robinson also rushed an average of 126.6 yards per game. Impressive. Robinson also tested fairly well in the combine with his 40-yard time being his only real setback. With a time of 4.64, Robinson was definitely fast enough for NFL scouts and was ranked as the 12th best running back in the combine.


2016 ILLINOIS STATE FR 9 63 322 5.1 2 12 109 9.1 1
2017 ILLINOIS STATE SO 11 65 933 5.7 12 9 75 8.3
2018 ILLINOIS STATE JR 12 102 1290 6.3 12 21 164 7.8 1
2019 ILLINOIS STATE SR 15 102 1899 5.2 18 16 80 5
CAREER OVERALL 46 797 4444 5.6 44 58 428 7.4 2


Robinson however, was not one of the 18 running backs selected in the draft.

Falling down to a free agent and signing with the Jaguars may have helped his career as a running back in the NFL. In fact, only two running backs in the 2020 class have outproduced James Robinson in terms of rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, Jonathan Taylor and Antonio Gibson. De’Andre Swift has more scrimmage yards (only by a few) than Robinson and has been more productive than Robinson getting into the end zone as a receiver, they are tied for rushing touchdowns.

As Leonard Fournette departed for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Robinson was in the right place at the right time and grabbed the opportunity with both hands. After claiming the starting spot in week 1 of the 2020 season and rushing for over 1,000 yards and 10 total touchdowns in his rookie season. Robinson followed up as the starter in his second season with a respectable output and Doug Pederson announced that he would be traded to the New York Jets and that this is the nature of the NFL, but this was likely due to Robinson eating into the playing time of rookie Travis Etienne.

Since the trade to the Jets, Robinson’s career has seemed to peter out as the Jets had no plans for Robinson once Breece Hall was healthy. With a move in free agency to the New England Patriots this offseason, this bodes well for Robinson as New England have parted ways with Damien Harris and often rotate the usage of their running backs, meaning Robinson should get some game time.

How could it have been different?

I think Robinson might have been happy with the way things worked out, after being given an opportunity that most draft prospects can only dream of. Now at the Patriots, Robinson is earning more than he was at the Jaguars which could mean we can expect to see Robinson feature in New England this season.

Notably, Cam Akers and Zach Moss have struggled to grasp the consistency that was expected of them during the draft process, had Robinson landed in Los Angeles, with the Rams or in Buffalo with the Bills, he may still have a starting job.

Alex Michael – @DynastyGuruNFL

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