The 2020 Virtual NFL Draft
The 2020 NFL Draft has come and gone. It was certainly unique considering the social distancing guidelines we all must abide by during this COVID-19 pandemic. Did the Baltimore Ravens once again ace the annual test? How did the Minnesota Vikings do with their abundance of 14 picks? Did any team receive a failing mark? What team had the highest grade? The answers are all within the body of this article.
The Cardinals addressed one of their biggest needs at outside linebacker with their 1st round pick Isiah Simmons. The former Clemson star will be an immediate impact player and at 6'4" and 238 pounds possesses freakish type athleticism.
The Cardinals did not have another pick until Round three and they cashed in with highly touted 6'5" and 319-pound offensive left tackle Josh Jones. Jones was a four year starter and team captain at the University of Houston. He was the #7 ranked offensive tackle in the draft which equates to stellar 3rd round value.
Keep an eye on 7th round pick Eno Benjamin out of Arizona State. Benjamin had a terrible outing at the NFL combine, which caused his stock to plummet considerably. The former Sun Devils captain is a real gamer and put up lofty numbers in his collegiate career.
I am not crazy about the Falcons first round pick, cornerback A.J. Terrell out of Clemson. He lacks the physicality that some top NFL corners have and that coincides with his inconsistent tackling. The rest of this year's rookie draft class for Atlanta I would classify as ho-hum.
Does the Baltimore Ravens ever have a draft that is not considered above average to superb? The answer is an emphatic no! This year is no different.
Baltimore was able to land the top-rated inside linebacker in Patrick Queen of LSU with their 1st round pick. They grabbed another gem in Round 2 with Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins. Additionally, I really like speedy slot receiver Devin Duvernay out of Texas, who was their second of its 3rd round picks. The Ravens also obtained value selections in rounds 6 and 7 when they drafted SMU receiver James Proche, in addition to Iowa safety Geno Stone.
Buffalo traded away its 1st, 5th, and 6th round picks in this year's draft, plus a 4th next year, to Minnesota in exchange for star wideout Stefon Diggs. The former South Carolina Gamecock has exceeded 1000 yards receiving in each of the past two seasons. Some critics will say the Bills gave up way too much in that deal. However, we must keep in mind, last year they sent center Russell Bodine to New England for a 6th round pick in 2020, and guard Wyatt Teller to Cleveland for a 5th round selection in 2020. Putting those moves into perspective, Buffalo received Diggs in exchange for Bodine and Teller combined with a 4th round pick in 2021. Any keen NFL front office would sign up for that transaction in a New York minute.
Buffalo also had a trio of players fall into their lap which were much higher rated than the position in which they were selected. A.J. Epenesa (DE/Iowa/2nd round), Zack Moss (RB/Utah/3rd round), and Jake Fromm (QB/Georgia/5th round) were all available when Buffalo's turn arose, much to the delight of General Manager Brandon Beane. They also drafted the #1 rated placekicker Tyler Bass out of Georgia Southern in round 6.
New head coach Matt Ruhle definitively left his imprint on this year's draft after the Panthers used all seven of their picks on defensive players. I especially was fond of their top four selections of Derrick Brown (DT/Auburn), Yetur Gross-Matos (DT/Penn State), Jeremy Chinn (S/Southern Illinois), and Troy Pride Jr. (CB/Notre Dame). It is extremely rare that a team's draft focuses solely on one side of the ball. Nevertheless, Carolina allowed a franchise worst 470 points last season, which was certainly cause for enormous concern.
The Bears were without a 1st round draft pick which tracks back to their acquisition of Khalil Mack two years ago. They utilized their 2nd round selection on Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet. Considering they already signed 33-year-old veteran tight end Jimmy Graham during the early free agency period, Chicago will be positioned to bring Kmet along slowly and avoid impeding his NFL maturation process.
I am high on Chicago's 2nd round pick of cornerback Jaylon Johnson who played his college ball at Utah. Some NFL draft outlets had Johnson rated as a late first rounder. The rest of the Bears draft left me totally uninspired.
Even the maligned Bengals organization could not screw up this draft. Selecting LSU record setting quarterback Joe Burrow with the overall #1 pick was a foregone conclusion and absolute no-brainer. With the first pick in Round 2, Cincinnati chose electric Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins. I found their 3rd round pick of Wyoming linebacker Logan Wilson to be an astute choice. Especially when allowing for Wilson being the #3 rated inside linebacker. The rest of their draft was not as exciting or impactful.
The Browns front office and scouts hit a huge home run in this draft by my estimation. I unequivocally loved Cleveland's entire rookie class starting with their first two picks of Alabama offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. and LSU safety Grant Delpit.
Kudos goes out to first year General Manager Andrew Berry and incoming rookie head coach Kevan Stefanski. If first impressions count, these two offseason hires have already paid huge dividends.
Jerry Jones practically jumped out of his seat when star Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb was still untaken after 16 picks. Although wide receiver was not considered a position of need for Dallas, Lamb was too outstanding of a talent to pass on.
The rest of the Cowboy's draft was terrific in my opinion. Beginning with their round 2 pick of Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs of Alabama. They even received seemingly high value in the 5th round with defensive end Bradlee Anae. The former Utah Ute should have an excellent chance of being a key rotational type player during his rookie campaign. They also obtained another potential sleeper in round 4 with by choosing Wisconsin center Tyler Biadasz who was rated #3 at his position in this year's draft.
General Manager John Elway made sure to surround last year's #1 pick, quarterback Drew Locke, with plenty of weapons. With their first two picks Denver selected a pair of receivers who can stretch the field vertically in Jerry Jeudy from Alabama and K.J. Hamler out of Penn State. Hamler is diminutive slot receiver who is not only a threat in the passing game, but possesses game breaking ability when returning kicks.
Furthermore, in Round 4 they picked extremely talented tight end Albert Okwuegbunam from Missouri. Okwuegbunam is coming off a disappointing senior season, but when paired with Drew Locke two years ago at Missouri, the 6-5 and 255-pound Okwuegbunam was able to showcase his full array of mercurial athletic ability.
Denver's draft haul of 9 players was an impressive one. They clearly are attempting to match AFC West rival Kansas City's offensive speed, and at least on paper they have sizeably narrowed that gap.
I really like the Lions first 5 picks of cornerback Jeff Okudah of Ohio State, running back D’Andrea Swift from Georgia, Notre Dame outside linebacker Julian Okwara, Ohio State offensive guard Jonah Jackson, and offensive guard Logan Stenburg, who played collegiately at Kentucky.
Lions head coach Matt Patricia will be on the proverbial hot seat heading into this season. Nonetheless, he should benefit from a gifted rookie crop of players.
Green Bay Packers
Beginning with trading up to grab Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in round 1, I have no idea what Green Bay's front office personnel was thinking about regarding their selections. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers still has four years remaining on his current contract and has shown no sign of imminent decline. Taking Boston College running back A.J. Dillon in Round 2 was equally as puzzling. The Packers already have proven running backs in Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, who have recently been productive.
The one position the Packers desperately needed to upgrade and did not was wide receiver. Particularly in a wide receiver draft class which was enormously deep. I feel for Aaron Rodgers who has an increasingly shrinking window to reach another Super Bowl. This draft class will not help his cause in that regard.
This draft is just another in a long line of poor decision making by current Head Coach and General Manager Bill O'Brien. Moreover, in his defense, he had only five picks to work with. Conversely, the shortage of picks was by his own doing and a result of some mind-boggling trades. The latest of which was sending all-pro wide receiver Deandre Hopkins to Arizona for overpriced running back David Johnson and a second round draft choice.
Jacksonville owned three of the first 42 picks in this draft and by all accounts made the best of them. Their top pick was ninth overall and that is where they selected Florida cornerback C.J. Henderson. That was a nice selection, considering they traded star corner Jalen Ramsey to the Rams last season.
Their second pick in the first round was #20 overall, obtained in the Jalen Ramsey trade, and subsequently they went with LSU outside linebacker K’Lavon Chiasson. The 6'3", 254-pounder has a rare combination of size, power, and speed.
Jacksonville then chose intriguing wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. out of Colorado in Round 2. Shenault has below average speed for a receiver picked this high, but is an elusive open field runner. The former Colorado Buffalo has excellent size for a wide receiver at 6'2" and 227 pounds. Shenault will give Jacksonville the versatility of ether playing in the slot, out wide, or being utilized on jets sweeps.
They selected a bona fide sleeper in offensive tackle Ben Bartch out of Division III St. John's Minnesota, who was a first of three 4th round picks. The 6'6", 309-pound Bartch held up very well in Senior Bowl practices against players from much higher profile schools. Bartch exhibited tremendous run blocking ability when going up more heralded players during the course of that week.
The Jaguars made 10 picks in all and put together a solid class of incoming rookies. Barring injuries, three of their draft choices will be starters, and I wouldn't be shocked at all if one or two more broke through as well.
Kansas City Chiefs
Other than their 1st round pick spent on LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, I was not enthralled with the Chiefs draft. Granted Edwards-Helaire should be an immediate impact player for the defending Super Bowl champions. however, the rest of their class leaves much to be desired.
Los Angeles Chargers
Although first round pick Justin Herbert has all the physical tools to become a franchise quarterback, I still have my doubts. The former Oregon Ducks signal caller struggled at times when facing highly ranked opponents. He also sustained head scratching streaks of inconsistency at times.
The Chargers also traded to move back up into the 1st round (23rd overall) and drafted Oklahoma inside linebacker Kenneth Murray. Draft gurus have projected Murray to have a significantly high ceiling. I concur wholeheartedly with those assessments.
Considering they were not able to make another pick until round 4, the Chargers were still able to secure adequate value. The rest of their draft choices consists of running back Joshua Kelly of UCLA (4th round), Virginia wide receiver Joe Reed (5th round), Notre Dame safety Alohi Gilman (6th round), and Ohio State wide receiver K.J, Hill (7th round).
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams have not had a 1st round draft choice since 2016, when they selected current starting quarterback Jared Goff. They gave up this year's top pick for cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who was obtained in a trade from Jacksonville. You will not get many arguments regarding the fruitfulness of that transaction.
Florida State running back Cam Akers was their pick in Round 2. The selection drew a lot of attention after ESPN cameras captured Head Coach Sean McVay being visibly upset while on a phone call just prior to this pick being officially announced. One can safely assume he was not in agreeance with front office personnel on taking Akers.
The Rams had two selections in Round 3 and I was in favor of both players chosen. With the 20th pick in Round 3 they took hybrid outside linebacker Terrell Lewis, who has the versatility to line up with his hand in the ground and be an edge rusher.
With their other choice in Round 3, they opted for Utah safety Terrell Burgess. He will likely fill the role of the recently departed Nickell Robey-Coleman, who did a masterful job of covering slot receivers. Burgess is 5'11" and 202 pounds and is much bigger compared to the pint-sized Robey-Coleman who is just 5'8" and 180.
Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas had seven picks in the first four rounds and none beyond that. Despite those infrequent set of circumstances, Head Coach John Gruden and General Manager Mike Mayock did some meaningful work, which should result in several first year players making instantaneous contributions.
The Raiders elected to address their shortcomings at wide receiver. Their 1st round pick was Alabama wideout Henry Ruggs, who is unambiguously the fasted player in this year's draft class. They also drafted a pair of wide receivers in Round 3 by choosing South Carolina's Bryan Edwards and Kentucky's Lynn Bowden Jr.
The Raiders final three picks were spent on Clemson safety Tanner Muse, Clemson offensive guard John Simpson, and Louisiana Tech cornerback Amik Robertson, who can turn out to be a heist when considering his 4th round status.
Ironically enough, the only Raiders selection I was not on board with was their second pick in Round 1 (19th overall) Damon Arnette of Ohio State. That pick is the only thing from keeping me from giving them an A+ mark.
Through a series of highly controversial trades that strenuously tested the loyalty of their fan base, Miami accumulated a colossal total of 11 picks. Rather than writing an NFL Draft version of War and Peace, I will condense my analysis on Miami's draft to a few bullet points.
Their 1st round pick of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has boom or bust written all over it. There is no doubting his vast talent level when he is healthy. However, he was banged up quite a bit during his three years in Tuscaloosa. The most recent of which was last season's career threatening dislocated hip injury.
I was not enamored with the Dolphins other two first round picks of USC offensive tackle Austin Jackson and Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene. What I did love was their pair of 2nd round picks on Louisiana offensive guard Robert Hunt and Alabama defensive end Raekwon Davis.
Miami also acquired substantial value in round 5 by taking defensive ends Jason Strowbridge of North Carolina and Boise State's Curtis Weaver.
Upon completion of the 2020 NFL Draft, Miami is surely a better football team on paper than they were before this immensely viewed event took place.
Minnesota was a playoff team a season ago. Yet, General Manager Rick Spielman was able to amass 14 picks in this 2020 NFL Draft. Over 20% of those picks came by way of trading wide receiver Stefon Diggs to Buffalo for a 1st, 5th, and 6th in this year's draft, besides securing a 4th next year as part of the same trade.
The Vikings quickly addressed the loss of Diggs by choosing highly touted LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson with the 22nd overall pick obtained from Buffalo.
If 7 of those 14 picks can be deemed important contributors in a couple of seasons from now, then Minnesota's draft will be considered successful. I see that as a highly probable manifestation.
New England Patriots
One of the bigger surprises of this draft was New England not taking a quarterback. Then again, how can we even begin to second guess future Hall of Fame inductee Bill Belichick's decision making. What was vintage Belichick was trading out of the 1st round to collect additional draft picks.
When it was all said and done, New England drafted four defensive players, 5 on offense, and a placekicker. I was particularly intrigued by their first three picks, which were all on the defensive side. Keep an eye on their 2nd round pick of safety Kyle Dugger out of tiny Lenoir-Rhyne. The 6'1" and 217-pounder collected 10 career interceptions and returned six punts for touchdowns during his collegiate career. Granted he faced lesser competition than a vast majority of players in this year's rookie class. Nevertheless, Belichick seldom misses on outside of the box selections.
Interestingly, New England also opted for a pair of tight ends in Round 3 when grabbing Devin Asiasi of UCLA and Dalton Keene from Virginia Tech. This came days after trading former all pro tight end Rob Gronkowski who is coming off a one-year NFL sabbatical to Tampa Bay for a 4th round pick.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints only had four picks in this year's draft, but boy did I love their top three choices. Their 1st round selection was spent on Michigan center Cesar Ruiz, who was rated #1 at his position. They had a pair of third round picks, and they certainly made great use of them. They chose Wisconsin outside linebacker Zack Baun who many projected to be chosen earlier. The other can potentially end up being a hidden gem in 6'5" and 225-pound Dayton tight end Adam Trautman. Then again, Trautman was the second highest rated tight end in this year's draft, so it is not like NFL talent evaluators were unaware of his abilities.
The only thing stopping me from giving New Orleans a higher grade was their low volume of picks.
New York Giants
I am convinced of one thing. Current Giants and former Panthers General Manager Dave Gettlemen does not seem nearly as smart since losing his top talent evaluator Brandon Beane. Since Beane took the General Manager position in Buffalo prior to the 2017 season, Gettlemen has been heavily criticized. As a matter of fact, it was speculated that Carolina's ownership was not happy with Gettlemen letting Beane get away, and it was one of the major reasons he was fired upon conclusion of the 2016-2017 season. Well Gettlemen did little to silence his critics after this recently completed draft.
New York made 10 picks and I identified mostly limited value in terms of players who were selected, and aligning them with what round they were chosen in. With one exception, Alabama safety Xavier McKinney who was pick in the 2nd round. McKinney is a 1st round talent and should be their opening day starting safety.
New York Jets
I am of the opinion the Jets did very well in this draft. Starting with their 1st round pick of gargantuan 6'7" and 364-pound Louisville offensive guard Makhi Becton. They followed that up by choosing Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims in the 2nd round. Mims is a huge target at 6'3" and 207-pounds who possesses top end speed. They also have a potential 5th round sleeper in 6'1", 202-pound Virginia cornerback Bryce Hall. By all accounts Hall should have come off the board much sooner than he did.
The Eagles draft was puzzling and that may even be way too kind. They selected TCU wide receiver Jalen Raegor with the 21st overall pick. Raegor is a speed burner but is only 5'11" and has short arms which makes it tough for him to come away with 50/50 balls. He was 9th rated for his position group, in a class of wide receivers that was deepest than it has ever been. My point being, Reagor is a good player but nowhere near worthy of how early he was chosen.
Then in the 2nd round came a real shocker when they took Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. I am positively not knocking Hurts abilities in any way, shape, or form. It just boggles my mind that they would take Hurts when you already own a young franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz. The pundits will make the argument that Wentz has been injury prone and I get that. Despite that claim, using this valuable of a draft asset fearing Wentz getting hurt does not seem the least bit logical.
The rest of the Eagles draft was average at best. Nevertheless, their grade goes down substantially based on their botching of the top two picks.
The Steelers gave up this year's 1st round pick to Miami when they traded for safety Minkah Fitzpatrick early last season. Fitzpatrick proceeded to turn in an All-Pro season, so Pittsburgh will indubitably live with their decision. Especially when bearing in mind the 23-year-old Fitzpatrick still has three years remaining on his current contract.
Pittsburgh made an astute choice in the 2nd round when they took 6'4" and 238-pound Notre Dame wide receiver Chase Claypool. Do not be fooled by Claypool's unusually large size for a wide receiver. He was just a second ever player who was 235 pounds or more to run a sub-4.45 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. The other was Calvin Johnson, and he turned out very well if my memory serves me well.
The rest of the Steelers' draft was filled with mid-level prospects of which I could not make a case for any being a sleeper or potential steal.
Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks was a 1st round reach. The same can be said for 2nd round pick Darrell Taylor who is a defensive end from Tennessee. Although, I do believe Taylor is a better prospect than Brooks.
I am high on LSU offensive guard Damien Lewis who was the Seahawks 3rd round pick. I also think they latched onto a potential steal in round 5 with their selection of Syracuse defensive end Alton Robinson.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers struck gold with their two first round picks. They took South Carolina’s 6'5" and 324-pound offensive tackle Javon Kinlaw with the 14th overall pick. Then with the 25th overall selection they snatched wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk from Arizona State. I am confident that both players are a perfect fit in the offensive and defensive schemes that San Francisco employs, and each will make an instant impression
The 49ers also made a notable trade on day 3 of the draft when they sent a 5th round pick to Washington for All-Pro offensive tackle Trent Williams. This was a significant move in view of long time San Francisco offensive tackle Joe Staley announcing his retirement on the very same day.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When grading the Buccaneers draft, we must factor in they traded a fourth round pick for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who ended a short one-year retirement. By doing so, Gronkowski will be reunited with Tom Brady who is arguably the best quarterback of all time.
The Bucs 1st round pick was an absolute jewel in Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs. The selection of Wirfs will automatically improve an offensive line that surrendered the 11th most sacks in the NFL last season.
They then picked Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr. in Round 2. You can make a strong argument that Winfield is a first round talent and many teams will eventually regret passing him by.
The 3rd round saw the Bucs take unheralded Vanderbilt running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn. He played behind an offensive line that was consistently overmatched in SEC play throughout his college career. The Commodores also had to abandon their running game on many occasions when trying to overcome substantial deficits. As a result, Vaughn might end up producing better NFL statistics than he was able to garner at Vanderbilt.
The Titans had a good, but not spectacular, 2020 draft. Tennessee's roster remains virtually intact from the one that lost to Kansas City in last season's AFC Championship Game. With that in mind, the Titans can be patient with their top three picks of Georgia offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson (1st round), LSU cornerback Kristian Fulton (2d round), and Appalachian State running back Darrynton Evans (3rd round). They also made a nice value pick in Round 5 on North Carolina defensive tackle Larrell Murchinson, who has the potential to someday be a starter.
As expected, Washington took Ohio State defensive end Chase Young with the #2 overall pick. Most NFL draft experts had him rated higher than 1st overall pick Joe Burrow. In any event, both players should enjoy successful NFL careers.
I thought Washington's overall draft class was not bad by any means, but the only starter will likely be Chase Young. Redskins fans were desperately hoping for more immediate impact players from this 2020 NFL draft, but barring something unforeseen, they will have to sit tight and focus on the big picture.