Final 2020 NFL draft grades
The picks are in, from No. 1 (Joe Burrow to the Cincinnati Bengals) through No. 255 (Tae Crowder, aka “Mr. Irrelevant,” to the Giants), and we have broken all of them down.
Here are our final team-by-team grades for the 2020 NFL draft (picks listed by round and overall pick):
Picks: 2-54: Iowa EDGE A.J. Epenesa; 3-86: Utah RB Zack Moss; 4-128: UCF WR Gabriel Davis; 5-167: Georgia QB Jake Fromm; 6-188: Georgia Southern K Tyler Bass; 6-207: Oregon State WR Isaiah Hodgins; 7-239: Pittsburgh CB Dane Jackson
Favorite pick: Epenesa
Almost picked Moss here, but the injury worry gives me pause. Both of the Bills’ Day 2 picks were outstanding, but Epenesa was something we mocked to Buffalo in Round 1 prior to the Stefon Diggs trade. To get him a full round later feels like theft. Don’t get too hung up on his slow 40-yard dash. He’s a power end who can kick inside and will find ways to get to the QB. I’ll be stunned if he doesn’t amount to something. The Bills can now cut Trent Murphy if they want and still have nice depth on a budding defensive line.
Least-favorite pick: Bass
Yeah, this tells you everything. We’re griping about a kicker. And he’s good, too. Smashes the ball on kickoffs, is accurate on the short and intermediate stuff and looked the part at the Senior Bowl. Maybe his lack of long accuracy and experience in cold weather are the only questions — that and the wisdom of drafting kickers. But every other pick, we could get behind.
Overall: Landing Diggs, Epenesa and Moss with their first three picks feels like a giant victory for an ascending team that could pounce in the post-Brady AFC East era. The Bills have a smart scouting staff with a deep talent-evaluation bench, and they made the most of their remaining picks after the trade with Minnesota. If Moss can keep his body right, he could be outstanding in a timeshare with Devin Singletary. The Day 3 receivers both came at great values, Fromm was too good to pass on that late and Jackson was far better than DBs taken before him. Get on board now, folks, as this team is going places.
Picks: 1-5: Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa; 1-18: USC OT Austin Jackson; 1-30: Auburn CB Noah Igbinoghene; 2-39: Louisiana-Lafayette OT Robert Hunt; 2-56: Alabama DL Raekwon Davis; 3-70: Texas S Brandon Jones; 4-111: Georgia OG Solomon Kindley; 5-154: North Carolina EDGE Jason Strowbridge; 5-164: Boise State EDGE Curtis Weaver; 6-185: LSU LS Blake Ferguson; 7-246: Navy WR Malcolm Perry
Favorite pick: Tagovailoa
General manager Chris Grier deserves a round of applause. He and his staff’s misdirection campaign was a three-month effort to throw off everyone’s scent and give the impression that Oregon’s Justin Herbert was their guy. It will be fun to find out whether Tua and his camp were in on the ruse because they appeared to send out mixed signals about Miami’s interest. Really, Tagovailoa was the one the Dolphins viewed as having the potential for greatness, even amid all the injury concerns. Grier stayed at pick No. 5 and took the QB with the highest upside at that spot. It’s potentially a massive win, so applaud his bravado.
Least-favorite pick: Jackson
I don’t hate Jackson’s game. He’s just not ready. And to make it clear, his brave, selfless act to donate bone marrow for his ailing sister is something everyone can loudly applaud. But did it affect his play when he returned to the field a few weeks later? Jackson indicated it likely did, having lost weight and stamina because of the procedure. Here’s hoping that he ends up a terrific pro and that I can admit to being wrong about his projection as a prospect. And the good news is that the Dolphins can work with him and cultivate that talent at a gradual pace.
Overall: The draft lost steam after the thrilling Tagovailoa pick, but the team added a lot of talent over the weekend. Jackson can work into a starting role. Igbinoghene could be the starting nickel and top returner. Hunt might be ready to mash people now, and Kindley gives Miami another mauler. Davis and Jones were not personal favorites, but they’re dirty-work players for head coach Brian Flores, a man who loves those types. Day 3 values came in the form of Strowbridge and Weaver, and Perry will be a fun training-camp story who might squeeze his way into the picture.
New York Jets
Picks: 1-11: Louisville OT Mekhi Becton; 2-59: Baylor WR Denzel Mims; 3-68: California S Ashtyn Davis; 3-79: Florida EDGE Jabari Zuniga; 4-120: Florida RB Lamical Perine; 4-125: Florida International QB James Morgan; 4-129: Charlotte OG Cameron Clark; 5-158: Virginia CB Bryce Hall; 6-191: Texas A&M P Braden Mann
Favorite pick: Mims
The player I compared Mims to during the process was D.J. Chark, a former second-rounder of the Jaguars who had first-round traits but third-round tape. Chark broke out with a 1,000-yard season in Year 2 and is a player on the rise. I could see a similar progression for Mims, who was discussed in the Round 1 range but surprisingly fell to the 13th receiver selected. We’ll bet a few ducats that he ends up better than that. Does he round off his routes and suffer a few concentration drops? Yes. But he also makes highlight-reel grabs and can help Sam Darnold attack downfield more. The Packers, picking three spots later, wanted Mims and just missed out.
Least-favorite pick: Zuniga
And really, none of their picks was a massive overreach or a poor fit. Zuniga has the traits to be a solid rusher, but injuries have held him back and he needs technical work. Maybe assistants Joe Vitt and Andre Carter can go to work on him and mine that talent. I had Zuniga pegged as a fourth-rounder, just outside my top 100 prospects, but the positional value didn’t make him a reach here. I liked most of the Jets’ picks in general.
Overall: General manager Joe Douglas’ first draft with the Jets appears to be a nice haul overall. Becton over Tristan Wirfs was a debatable call, and I made my very soft case against Zuniga, a picking of nits here. The Jets needed talent influxes all over, and they checked a number of boxes while mostly maximizing value. A few of the players they picked are wait-and-see projections, but we’re confident there isn’t a high bust factor to this class unless Becton’s weight becomes an issue. The later picks of Morgan, Clark, Hall and Mann were smart. There’s a lot to like overall in this group, and they smartly used the extra draft ammo traded for vets Leonard Williams and Darron Lee.
New England Patriots
Picks: 2-37: Lenoir-Rhyne S-LB Kyle Dugger; 2-60: Michigan LB-EDGE Josh Uche; 3-87: Alabama EDGE Anfernee Jennings; 3-91: UCLA TE Devin Asiasi; 3-101: Virginia Tech TE Dalton Keene; 5-159: Marshall PK Justin Rohrwasser; 6-182: Michigan OG Mike Onwenu; 6-195: Wake Forest OL Justin Herron; 6-204: Wyoming LB Cassh Maluia; 7-230: Memphis C Dustin Woodard
Favorite pick: Uche
Bill Belichick has a saying, and we’re paraphrasing here: “Don’t tell me what a guy can’t do. Tell me what he can do.” And with Uche, he’s going to find a way to be a successful rusher despite his limitations. There’s a lot of upside that could be squeezed out of him with long arms, twitchy athleticism and a white-hot motor. Belichick parked in front of the OL-DL one-on-one drills for two days at the Senior Bowl, and Uche consistently showcased his skills in those battles. He also can stand up and do some very Patriots-ish things, as can their first pick, Dugger.
Least-favorite pick: Rohrwasser
We fear what we don’t understand. Yes, we’re judging a pick of a player we’ve never seen kick (outside of a few YouTube highlights we scrambled to watch). Two special-teams coaches gave the names of five kickers and five punters they liked for this class, and Rohrwasser’s name didn’t come up. Does that mean he can’t be the next Adam Vinatieri? Of course not. We hope he’s the greatest kicker of all time. But spending a fifth-rounder on him — with the more accomplished Tyler Bass and Rodrigo Blankenship available — at least lends to some level of scrutiny.
Overall: In a bizarre coincidence, the Patriots’ first five picks landed eerily close to my overall rankings. I had Dugger 41st (he went 37th), Uche 60th (nailed it on the head), Jennings 82nd (went 87th), Asiasi 101st (went 91st) and Keane 108th (he went 101st). Don’t know what that means, but it was the strangest thing I’ve seen doing this for a few years now. We need massive flow charts to track all of busy-as-ever New England’s trade movement involving their 2020 picks, but the Patriots seemed to do well to make up for trade mistakes (Mohamed Sanu so far anyway, and Michael Bennett) to gather depth. The only person not worried about the QB depth seems to be Belichick, and he’s good at coaching. So transitively, we’re not worried. Uche could be the sneaky star here, and both tight ends were massively underused in their teams’ inconsistent passing games, so there might be untapped receiving reserves. The picks from Herron on were basically throwaway picks in that the Patriots have few actual roster picks open. Was this a banner group? I doubt it but it’s not stunning they went this direction, even if the approach confuses some.
Picks: 1-28: LSU LB Patrick Queen; 2-55: Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins; 3-71: Texas A&M DT Justin Madubuike; 3-92: Texas WR Devin Duvernay; 3-98: Ohio State LB Malik Harrison; 3-106: Mississippi State OL Tyre Phillips; 4-143: Michigan OG Ben Bredeson; 5-170: Texas Tech DL Broderick Washington Jr.; 6-201: SMU WR James Proche; 7-219: Iowa S Geno Stone
Favorite pick: Queen
Like picking your favorite child, this is no easy task. The Ravens almost every year have one of my favorite drafts. Forced to pick, I say Queen. Were they sweating out the Seahawks the pick prior? Probably. And I suspect Brandon Aiyuk was also in their sights before San Francisco jumped them to get him. Queen — the first LSU player Baltimore has ever drafted — plays like a Raven. He might be a bit green but could be a special performer in time.
Least-favorite pick: Phillips
I had Bredeson slightly ahead of Phillips in my rankings, so this is a mild value quibble here. Bredeson might be more technically sound, even if Phillips’ four-position versatility (every OL spot but center) gives him some value to a team that needs depth inside and out. I just don’t know if he’s anything other than a steady reserve, a possible sixth man — which is the role Phillips essentially played for the Bulldogs in 2018.
Overall: Every year, the Ravens seem to sit back and let great value come to them. A trade here and there, but this year everything lined up beautifully. And their draft haul already was strong before they made a 2020 selection, essentially flipping two fifth-rounders and Kenny Young for Marcus Peters and Calais Campbell. So nabbing two veterans, plus a tremendous haul in the first four rounds and some quality late picks (Proche and Stone in Round 7, are you kidding me?!), makes this a home-run effort by Eric DeCosta and his crew in Year 2 running the Ravens’ draft.
Picks: 1-1: LSU QB Joe Burrow; 2-33: Clemson WR Tee Higgins; 3-65: Wyoming LB Logan Wilson; 4-107: Appalachian State LB Akeem Davis-Gaither; 5-147: Notre Dame EDGE Khalid Kareem; 6-180: Kansas OG Hakeem Adeniji; 7-215: Purdue LB Markus Bailey
Favorite pick: Higgins
Cheating here because Burrow is my favorite pick, but let’s give Higgins some shine. He was our 26th overall prospect, and we’re not going to make any apologies for that. Higgins plays a similar style to A.J. Green and grew up idolizing him, so they’re now teammates — at least for a year, anyway. It gives Burrow another long, dynamic playmaker capable of winning outside, and we love that. Let those two grow together, and they could be a special pair in time.
Least-favorite pick: Davis-Gaither
Turn on the North Carolina tape, in which ADG had an interception and a blocked kick, and you might get an idea of how he can contribute. The only real quibble was that his skills have some overlap with that of Wilson, the pick a round earlier. Can they play together? Perhaps. It felt like a luxury selection, although the Bengals liked what they saw in Davis-Gaither after coaching him at the Senior Bowl. Not a bad pick. Just not our fave.
Overall: The Bengals were quiet on the trade front, just sitting back and making picks of players they liked. It proved to be a sound approach. Ignoring the offensive line early might be something they regret, but maybe Adeniji turns into a serviceable guard. Kareem is a nice piece. Bailey was a great gamble late; if he’s healthy, that dude can play. And let’s face it: This puppy comes down to Burrow thriving or not. He can be special, even if the early results might be frustrating. He has a chance to lead this franchise out of the darkness, and the remainder of the class reads like a solid haul to help that effort.
Picks: 1-10: Alabama OT Jedrick Wills Jr.; 2-44: LSU S Grant Delpit; 3-88: Missouri DT Jordan Elliott; 3-97: LSU LB Jacob Phillips; 4-115: Florida Atlantic TE Harrison Bryant; 5-160: Washington C Nick Harris; 6-187: Michigan WR Donovan Peoples-Jones
Favorite pick: Wills
To get him at No. 10 had to set off a quarantine party at the Andrew Berry household. Didn’t think that could happen. Wills was our OT1, although Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs and Georgia’s Andrew Thomas were not far behind. Going into the draft, Thomas was a reasonable expectation for the Browns, assuming they were not prepared to move up. But Wills is better. Moving to left tackle could take some time to adjust, but he’s a perfect fit in the Browns’ wide-zone run system and will be a tone setter up front.
Least-favorite pick: Phillips
Phillips is a nice player who can make this roster, but I would have liked the pick more had it come a round later. There was some late, low buzz on this unsung member of the Tigers’ title-winning defense, but I worry he’s not good enough in coverage to be more than just an early down defender and special-teams performer.
Overall: We’ve said it before in past draft weekends, but the Browns helped themselves. Four of the first five picks carried some notable value and Bryant and Harris were worth fifth-round fliers despite a lack of size for both. They each bring tenacity and a football-first mentality that will serve them well. This class really is about the trio of Wills, Delpit and Elliott helping early on. There was a point where I could have made a case for all three being in the first-round picture. Hard not to like what Cleveland did.
Picks: 2-49: Notre Dame WR Chase Claypool; 3-102: Charlotte EDGE Alex Highsmith; 4-124: Maryland RB Anthony McFarland Jr.; 4-135: Louisiana-Lafayette OG Kevin Dotson; 6-198: Maryland S Antoine Brooks Jr.; 7-232: Nebraska DT Carlos Davis
Favorite pick: Dotson
While studying his ULL teammate, Dolphins second-rounder Robert Hunt, we found ourselves saying, who is this guy? It was Dotson who ended up having a higher PFF grade over the season than Hunt (who was hurt half the year). Dotson should have received a scouting combine invite, and it hurt him pre-draft. His bowl game performance wasn’t great, but Dotson showed his nastiness in starting 52 games for the Ragin’ Cajuns, and if he can clean up some of his wild tendencies, he could be a central-casting Steelers road grader at guard.
Least-favorite pick: McFarland
It’s hard to get the 2018 Ohio State game out of our heads. He lit the Buckeyes up that day. But McFarland’s low workload and constant injuries are concerning, even if he comes in with low mileage and has home-run power as a runner and receiver. If used right, he could be a fascinating change-up back, be skeptical.
Overall: Factor in the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade, plus the move up to land Devin Bush a year ago, and this draft class already has paid big dividends. Landing an athletic playmaker and special-teams demon in Claypool was a smart first pick, and Highsmith is a fascinating project. This class isn’t sexy but we’re fans of most of what Kevin Colbert and crew accomplished.
Picks: 2-40: TCU DL Ross Blacklock; 3-90: Florida EDGE Jonathan Greenard; 4-126: North Carolina OT Charlie Heck; 4-141: Penn State CB John Reid; 5-171: Rhode Island WR Isaiah Coulter
Favorite pick: Greenard
We ranked him 82nd, so this wasn’t some supreme discount — although other media analysts had him in the Round 2 range. Still, Greenard was a sack artist at Louisville and then for the Gators, and his effectiveness at disrupting is too good to ignore. He plays hard and uses his hands really well, filling a need for a team that will have to replace some pass-rush production.
Least-favorite pick: Heck
Really, where they got Heck — the son of a coach — was solid. He’s a really tall blocker, though, and it works against him when he doesn’t stay low; that was exploited in some one-on-one matchups at the Senior Bowl. Heck also has a high enough floor to where we can’t really hate the pick.
Overall: For as strange as some of the Texans’ veteran moves are, they can surprise us with their sneaky draft effectiveness. That’s a good thing when you trade away first-round picks. They found some solid players across the board, with Blacklock, Greenard and Reid (a smart, plucky nickel corner) possibly able to come in and aid the defense early. Coulter is also one to watch, with some eye-opening tape against better competition, even if he’s raw. Don’t forget, the Texans can rightfully count Laremy Tunsil, David Johnson and Brandin Cooks as unofficial members of the 2020 draft crop, but no rose-colored spin can remove the mouthstank that was the DeAndre Hopkins trade.
Picks: 2-34: USC WR Michael Pittman Jr.; 2-41: Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor; 3-85: Utah DB Julian Blackmon; 4-122: Washington QB Jacob Eason; 5-149: Ball State OG Danny Pinter; 6-193: Penn State DT Robert Windsor; 6-211: UMass DB Isaiah Rodgers; 6-212: Washington State WR Dezmon Patmon; 6-213: Michigan LB Jordan Glasgow
Favorite pick: Pittman
One of our great 2020 draft regrets was stamping a grade on Pittman that left him our 51st overall player, so by that measure he would be considered a reach. Forget about it. The more we stepped back and thought about it in late March and early April, that’s one we just messed up. Pittman has a great chance to end up one of the four or five best receivers in this whole class, and he was the seventh one taken. Combine his 50-50 skill as an intermediate receiver and his special-teams prowess, and Pittman is the perfect Colts pick.
Least-favorite pick: Blackmon
There wasn’t a single pick that left us scratching our heads. If forced to choose one, the pick of Blackmon was the only higher one that we didn’t get excited about. He made our top 100 (No. 90) but in retrospect likely should have graded slightly lower, given that he has no standout traits (other than character and perhaps versatility). A nice player, but one who might be eminently replaceable in a year or two.
Overall: Their first-rounder netted DeForest Buckner, and we might be having a Buckner-Javon Kinlaw debate in a few years. For now, the Colts came out with the immediate contributor they wanted, plus a draft class with some other game-changers on offense in Pittman and Taylor. Eason could take this from a strong class to a huge winner if he develops, and if not? Well, the investment was small enough where we can still justify them taking the shot where they did. The Colts had several Day 3 fliers, and 2-3 of them could help out. A typical Chris Ballard class that likely won’t feature many true busts.
Picks: 1-9: Florida CB C.J. Henderson; 1-20: LSU EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson; 2-42: Colorado WR Laviska Shenault Jr.; 3-73: Ohio State DT DaVon Hamilton; 4-116: St. John’s (Minn.) OT Ben Bartch; 4-137: Michigan State CB Josiah Scott; 4-140: Miami LB Shaquille Quarterman; 5-157: Auburn S Daniel Thomas; 5-165: Texas WR Collin Johnson; 6-189: Oregon State QB Jake Luton; 6-206: Georgia Tech TE Tyler Davis; 7-223: Memphis CB Chris Claybrooks
Favorite pick: Chaisson
We understand why everyone doesn’t love him, given that his sack production has been low and that he requires projection. And perhaps Chaisson isn’t ready-made to terrorize offenses in the NFL. He will develop along the Danielle Hunter trajectory, translating elite skills into production. It might not be instant coffee, but the brew will be worth it in the end. This team isn’t winning the Super Bowl next year. There’s no rush.
Least-favorite pick: Quarterman
It says something that we had to go to their seventh selection to find one that we weren’t jazzed about. Quarterman was a tackling machine and a leader from Day 1 for the Hurricanes, a true throwback “Mike” linebacker who overcame shortcomings to thrive in college. As a pro prospect, he carries limited appeal, especially in pass coverage. A special teams/run defender/hustler, Quarterman was a slight reach in late Round 4, even if he was a good college player.
Overall: The Jaguars quietly had a successful weekend. Flipping Jalen Ramsey for two first-round picks (one this year, one next), plus a fourth-rounder in 2021, will almost certainly be a big win. Shedding the contracts of A.J. Bouye and Nick Foles for a pair of fourths also feels like the smart approach for a rebuilding team. Perhaps they could have gotten more for Calais Campbell. But make no mistake: They’ll be in the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes next year, so there’s a long-term value in this year’s draft class that must be accounted for. And on top of that, they drafted three players with first-round ability — Henderson, Chaisson and Shenault — and followed them up with some other solid picks (especially Bartch, who could start a year from now). All in all, a nice weekend for the Jags, who drafted 12 players and it wouldn’t be stunning if 10 or more made next year’s opening roster.
Picks: 1-29: Georgia OT Isaiah Wilson; 2-61: LSU CB Kristian Fulton; 3-93: Appalachian State RB Darrynton Evans; 5-174: North Carolina State DL Larrell Murchison; 7-224: Hawaii QB Cole McDonald; 7-243: Marshall DB Chris Jackson
Favorite pick: Fulton
It’s still surprising that Fulton wasn’t a top-40 pick. I had him much higher on my overall prospect list than Wilson, figuring that Fulton’s press-man skill, big-game experience and underrated athleticism would translate into a starting CB with above-average skills. If Fulton plays to the level I think he can, he could render Malcolm Butler eventually expendable.
Least-favorite pick: Wilson
The league was split on him. Some teams had a grade on him commensurate with a late first- early second-round pick; other scouts viewed him as a Round 3 project. I was more closely aligned to the latter folks. Wilson has some sheer mass you can’t teach, and he fits a team that wants to be nasty and run the ball to win. But I just didn’t see enough to ever think he’d be great, and Wilson might not be ready to claim the starting right tackle job on Day 1.
Overall: They took a player I might have drafted in Round 2 in the first round. And then they used a second-round pick on a player I could have considered late in Round 1. So it sort of evens out? Evans profiles as a fun, quicker complement to Derrick Henry, and Murchison at least gives them some depth up front after trading Jurrell Casey. McDonald was a “why the heck not?” pick late. All in all, it was an uninspiring lot. Not bad, but not special. The Titans earned our highest post-draft grade in 2019, but that won’t be the case this year.
Picks: 1-15: Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy; 2-46: Penn State WR KJ Hamler; 3-77; Iowa CB Michael Ojemudia; 3-83: LSU C Lloyd Cushenberry; 3-95: Arkansas DT McTelvin Agim; 4-118: Missouri TE Albert Okwuegbunam; 5-178: Wake Forest LB Justin Strnad; 6-181: Fresno State OG Netane Muti; 7-252: Florida WR Tyrie Cleveland; 7-254: North Dakota State EDGE Derrek Tuszka.
Favorite pick: Jeudy
Not having to trade up and still landing Jeudy is a big win. He’s a shifty playmaker who will make his impact felt in some way. And we’re cheating a bit, but the Broncos backing that up with the Hamler and Okwuegbunam picks — to go with Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant, plus the running backs — means that Drew Lock has weapons for days.
Least-favorite pick: Ojemudia
He really improved his final season at Iowa and has some nice length and athleticism, so there’s nothing to hate there in late Round 3. We’re just not sure he has the total package to become more than a reserve, even though Iowa players tend to enter the NFL more ready-made than prospects from many other schools. Just would have thought he’d go a touch later.
Overall: Not having to move up for Jeudy was a coup, and every pick seemed to have sound reasoning and value. Strnad was a steal in Round 5, and Muti could be highway robbery if he can stay healthy, but that’s a big question. Overall, the Broncos added speed on offense and depth on defense and the o-line. It looks like a fine little class.
Kansas City Chiefs
Picks: 1-32: LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire; 2-63: Mississippi State LB Willie Gay Jr.; 3-96: TCU OT Lucas Niang; 4-138: Louisiana Tech S L’Jarius Sneed; 5-177: Michigan EDGE Michael Danna; 7-237: Tulane CB Bopete Keyes
Favorite pick: Edwards-Helaire
Who cares about value? What about the fit?! Edwards-Helaire could be a monster in this offense, able to split out (68 career catches, three drops), make people miss as a runner and also gain tough yards. He’s clutch, feisty and electric. Chiefs fans will learn. Our prediction: It won’t be long before he has the second-best selling jersey in Kansas City.
Least-favorite pick: Danna
Danna really didn’t get a chance to showcase his skills after transferring to the Wolverines for his final season after a productive career at Central Michigan. He started one game and played well vs. Illinois but otherwise was lost in a deep rotation in 2019. There’s talent to be developed for sure, but we were about 50-50 on his chances of getting drafted, so Round 5 felt high.
Overall: The Chiefs had a good draft after winning the Super Bowl. They didn’t take a corner until Round 7, which was interesting, but Keyes was good enough to go much earlier. Still, the meat of this draft comes down to the first two picks and the potential for Niang to be a steal. Edwards-Helaire will be a standout immediately, and Gay — whom we mocked to the Chiefs in Round 1 — could be special if he stays focused. A nice group overall.
Los Angeles Chargers
Picks: 1-6: Oregon QB Justin Herbert; 1-23: Oklahoma LB Kenneth Murray; 4-112: UCLA RB Joshua Kelley; 5-151: Virginia WR Joe Reed; 6-186: Notre Dame S Alohi Gilman; 7-220: Ohio State WR K.J. Hill
Favorite pick: Hill
Round 7?!?! We loved Hill, squeezing the Buckeyes’ all-time receptions leader into the back end of our top 100. And while that was not a popular sentiment, with critics pointing to his average athleticism, it’s stunning that such a technically proficient and effective receiver couldn’t get a sniff any higher. Pair that pick with the Reed choice in Round 5, and the Chargers got two WR favorites of ours on Day 3.
Least-favorite pick: Herbert
Look, he has a fairly high floor as a QB. I highly doubt he busts out of the league. But he’s in the Ryan Tannehill mold and likely won’t outperform a healthy Tua Tagovailoa. The Chargers were not about to trade up to grab Tagovailoa, but it’s fair to wonder how the draft might have shaken out had the offseason been normal. Their careers will be paralleled for years, but Herbert might never be special.
Overall: Some panned the trade up for Murray, but we love his athleticism, energy and leadership. Behind that defensive line, he could blossom as a playmaker more than he did in college. Herbert can be brought along at the proper pace, with no need to throw him out there before he’s ready for Anthony Lynn. And really, they plucked a few good skill-position values, including Kelley, late. Overall, there’s a safe feel to this crop, even with the value picks late.
Las Vegas Raiders
Picks: 1-12: Alabama WR Henry Ruggs III; 1-19: Ohio State CB Damon Arnette; 3-80: Kentucky RB Lynn Bowden Jr.; 3-81: South Carolina WR Bryan Edwards; 3-100: Clemson S Tanner Muse; 4-109: Clemson OG John Simpson; 4-139: Louisiana Tech CB Amik Robertson
Favorite pick: Robertson
Robertson, who missed our top 100, has a decent chance to win the nickel job early on. His ball production in college (14 interceptions) was absurd, and Robertson can overcome his lack of size with good quickness, a knack for finding the ball and a hard-nosed approach. Fun player who could end up a steal.
Least-favorite pick: Arnette
Count us as fans of the Buckeyes corner, more so than other media draft folks seem to be. But we had him rated a second-round pick, so the disappointment here is that the Raiders were not able to trade down and grab him later. This isn’t as bad a pick as some made it out to be, as Arnette is a tough customer who fits the Jon Gruden/Mike Mayock mold. Will he ever be a first-round playmaker? It’s unclear.
Overall: Even with the Raiders’ plan to move Bowden — a college receiver who was forced into QB duties out of need — to running back, we still see a little bit of overlap here with him, Ruggs and Edwards. They’re all different styles, but getting early returns from all three could be tough. Simpson was a nice pick late who should outplay his draft status, along with Robertson. It’s a top-heavy crop, with no picks after Round 4. Did the Raiders land enough high-end impact players overall? With the book closed on the Khalil Mack trade, that question will be asked more.
Picks: 1-17: Oklahoma WR CeeDee Lamb; 2-51: Alabama CB Trevon Diggs; 3-82: Oklahoma DT Neville Gallimore; 4-123: Tulsa CB Reggie Robinson II; 4-146: Wisconsin C Tyler Biadasz; 5-179: Utah EDGE Bradlee Anae; 7-231: James Madison QB Ben DiNucci
Favorite pick: Lamb
Hey, maybe Diggs was the best “value”, but I am taking the player I believe most in. Watching Lamb this season made me appreciate that good players don’t have to be the biggest, fastest, strongest or have the hottest 3-cone drill. Some do; others find ways to battle and succeed. That is Lamb, and by the way, his physical traits are plenty fine. He’s going to be a good one, and he’s a classic Cowboys pick. He has a dose of that Dez Bryant fire, even if they’re different styles of players. Love this pick.
Least-favorite pick: None
There’s not a bad pick here. Maybe DiNucci, the Pitt transfer, doesn’t have crazy upside and never makes it, but we watched him this year and felt he was draftable. Why not at that point? Easier to draft a flier QB that late, rather than trying to sign them as a priority free agent.
Overall: The Cowboys could not have hoped for better. Maybe if you’re one of those need-over-everything people, you could bemoan the lack of a safety or a tight end or something. Maybe a linebacker. We’re not really “need” people. Besides, their first six picks addressed areas that were softer than others on the roster. Lamb steps right in, Diggs enters the CB mix, Gallimore will make the most of his snaps, and Robinson was one we had our eyes on at the Senior Bowl. Hall of Famer Aeneas Williams volunteer coached the Bengals DBs that week and mentioned Robinson to us. Anae and Biadasz were well worth their draft slots. Take a bow, Cowboys. Can’t do much better than this.
New York Giants
Picks: 1-4: Georgia OT Andrew Thomas; 2-36: Alabama S Xavier McKinney; 3-99: Connecticut OT Matt Peart; 4-110: UCLA CB Darnay Holmes; 5-150: Oregon OG Shane Lemieux; 6-183: Penn State LB Cameron Brown; 7-218: Minnesota EDGE Carter Coughlin; 7-238: South Carolina LB T.J. Brunson; 7-247: Minnesota CB Chris Williamson; 7-255: Georgia LB Tae Crowder
Favorite pick: McKinney
The position had a vacancy, and they landed our 25th overall player 11 slots later. We can’t argue with that. Maybe there will be some strange Landon Collins stigma or expectations placed on him, and that would be unfortunate because they’re dissimilar in a few ways. But like Collins, McKinney should be mentally ready for a starting spot and fill a leadership role in time. This was well done.
Least-favorite pick: Thomas
Allow us to explain. We really like him! Our 11th-rated player, Thomas has the tools to become the best blocker in this class. But he was just behind Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs on our rankings and a few spots behind Alabama’s Jedrick Wills Jr., our No. 8 player regardless of position. Wills has a slightly better chance to be ready now and be the better player in the long run, even if not a ton separates them. Still, if either tackle is better than Thomas, this pick will be a net disappointment.
Overall: A solid little class. Not too much flair, most holes filled somewhat. If Thomas thrives and becomes the backbone of the line, the class is a respectable success. McKinney also should be a core piece. Peart will be a reserve to begin, and Holmes at best might make a run at the nickel spot. Brown is intriguing, with his long, lithe build and playmaking instinct. It doesn’t feel like a class with a ton of upward mobility, even factoring in the pick traded for Leonard Williams. A bit … circumspect maybe?
Picks: 1-21: TCU WR Jalen Reagor; 2-53: Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts; 3-103: Colorado LB Davion Taylor; 4-127: Clemson S K’von Wallace; 4-145: Auburn OT Jack Driscoll; 5-168: Boise State WR John Hightower; 6-196: Temple LB Shaun Bradley; 6-200: Southern Mississippi WR Quez Watkins; 6-210: Auburn OT Prince Tega Wanogho; 7-233: Stanford EDGE Casey Toohill
Favorite pick: Reagor
This wasn’t a pick that was met with universal praise, and it ultimately will come down to whether Reagor is better than the receivers (Justin Jefferson and Brandon Aiyuk) who went in the next few picks. Reagor is a highly twitched-up playmaker who is dying for some on-target passes. Sure, he drops one now and then, but Reagor is a little ball of energy who plays bigger than his size and can be used in a bunch of ways. A fun player who could change some.
Least-favorite pick: Hurts
Look, betting against this kid hasn’t turned out well for anyone. His potential is evident — along with his flaws. If he gets the right opportunity, say, for an injured Carson Wentz, and runs with it, the investment in Hurts will have been worth it. This is right about where the Patriots drafted Jimmy Garoppolo, after all, even if that situation was far different. Short of that, I am not retroactively suggesting that former undrafted free agent Taysom Hill has proved he should have been a second-round pick, you know?
Overall: The most telling moment of general manager Howie Roseman’s media draft briefing was when he was asked what the best-case scenario was for the Hurts pick, and Roseman didn’t have a great answer. I’ll answer it for him: Hurts succeeds for a short spell as a replacement starter and can be traded for value elsewhere. But using second-round picks on developmental QBs with the hope they’ll be worth a first-rounder in a trade one day is a leap of faith. Hurts and Reagor can be used in some fun packages, and two late speed receivers — Hightower and Watkins — were smart lottery tickets to scratch. Taylor’s speed is intriguing, but he’s raw. Even if one of their late dart throws cash in, there’s an incomplete feel with this crop.
Picks: 1-2: Ohio State EDGE Chase Young; 3-66: Memphis WR-RB Antonio Gibson; 4-108: LSU OT Saahdiq Charles; 4-142: Liberty WR Antonio Gandy-Golden; 5-156: San Diego State C Keith Ismael; 5-162: Michigan LB-S Khaleke Hudson; 7-216: Arkansas S Kamren Curl; 7-229: North Carolina State EDGE James Smith-Williams
Favorite pick: Young
Obvious, right? Well, this was our No. 1 overall prospect, and he has a chance to be special. No reason to get cute here. Along with Montez Sweat, the Redskins have two freaky pass rushers — and plenty of help around them. That Redskins D-line is no joke, y’all.
Least-favorite pick: Charles
We’ve been hard on the kid, and we hope he can be coached up and perhaps mentored by Ron Rivera. Charles lost the trust of some folks in Baton Rouge by not always following the rules, earning multiple suspensions. Here’s what we wrote in February, leading up to the combine:
“He’s a follower, not a leader,” the source continued. “He gravitated toward trouble when he didn’t have money, so what’s going to happen when he does have [an NFL paycheck]?
“He makes it tough to trust him. He’s not reliable. In three years, he had a major discipline issue each year.”
After that point, several teams took Charles off their draft boards with a character red flag. His talent suggests he could be an NFL-caliber blocker, and he would have gone top-100 easily without those major concerns. Let’s hope he capitalizes on his great chance in Washington, which just dealt Trent Williams and has a void at tackle.
Overall: Young, along with the pick used on Sweat, is the key to this draft. If those two rushers thrive, it’s a win. If not, did they miss an opportunity bypassing Tua Tagovailoa? Would things have been different under normal offseason conditions? They got this right. The rest of the class is a mixed bag, with Gibson a potential specialty weapon and some interesting picks later (Gandy-Golden, Hudson, Curl, Ismael and Smith-Williams). It’s not a one-man class, but one man — Young — will determine if this group is great or not.
Picks: 2-43: Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet; 2-50: Utah CB Jaylon Johnson; 5-155: Tulsa EDGE Trevis Gipson; 5-163: Georgia Southern CB Kindle Vildor; 5-173: Tulane WR Darnell Mooney; 7-226: Colorado OG Arlington Hambright; 7-227: Tennessee State OG Lachavious Simmons
Favorite pick: Gipson
There’s a theme with the Bears’ class: I didn’t hate any of the picks, but I wasn’t gushing over any of them, either. Kmet and Johnson could contribute the most immediately, but ultimately Gipson might prove to be the best value pick of the lot. Gipson put on a lot of weight in school and has some nice strength, good athleticism and forced a lot of fumbles in college. He’s one to watch developing over time. Only knock is that it cost them a 2021 fourth-round pick to take him.
Least-favorite pick: Vildor
No huge gripe here in late Round 5, but there were other corners we liked at that stage. He’s a smart young man, and his 2018 performance vs. Clemson put him on the scouting map. Since then, he has been highly inconsistent, with tough games against UMass in 2018 and Arkansas State in 2019 (vs. a few NFL-caliber receivers, mind you), a bunch of pass-interference penalties in 2019 and a tough week at the Senior Bowl overall. Vildor’s compact strength and long arms give him a chance, but I don’t know how he fits in. Maybe as a nickel?
Overall: It was a typically strange Bears draft, but there’s nothing offensive about any of the selections. Kmet was taken a little ahead of where we thought he should go, and Johnson a little before — he’s a good player if his shoulders hold up, which was a concern for some teams. And don’t forget, the Khalil Mack trade sunk its teeth into this draft-pick allotment, and the Bears potentially landed their starting QB – Nick Foles – for a fourth-rounder, so there’s hidden value. Overall, it’s not the most inspiring collection.
Picks: 1-3: Ohio State CB Jeffrey Okudah; 2-35: Georgia RB D’Andre Swift; 3-67: Notre Dame EDGE Julian Okwara; 3-75: Ohio State OG Jonah Jackson; 4-121: Kentucky OG Logan Stenberg; 5-166: Wisconsin WR Quintez Cephus; 5-172: New Mexico State RB Jason Huntley; 6-197: Utah DL John Penisini; 7-235: Ohio State DT Jashon Cornell
Favorite pick: Okudah
If a team drafts a corner in the top five, he must be special. We think Okudah is. His knocks are relatively minor, and the comp for him is Stephon Gilmore, so it’s easy to see how he might translate to a Matt Patricia defense, able to effectively press, bail or play off of zone coverage. Okudah also is mentally and physically tough and has the alpha personality required for that position in a division with some really good bigger receivers. He’ll be tasked with stopping the likes of Davante Adams, Allen Robinson and Adam Thielen six games a year, and we like Okudah’s chances to be good at that.
Least-favorite pick: Huntley
Maybe they turn this mighty-mite college running back into a slot receiver and return specialist. Otherwise, we can’t really get the pick. Huntley received seventh-round/PFA grades from a few teams we talked to, as his big-play electricity and receiving prowess are offset by a bad penchant for fumbling and a frame that likely can’t take too much pounding. Had the Lions taken him in Round 7, fine. But in the middle of Round 5, it felt like an overpay.
Overall: Not being able to move down from No. 3 — something they badly wanted to do — rates as a minor loss. But nabbing Okudah was the best possible fallback option, and landing Swift was a smart play in Round 2. They added some blue-collar toughness in Jackson, Stenberg and Penisini, and Okwara — reunited with his brother in Detroit — could be a feel-good story if he comes back from injury. The loss-of-value quotient after trading Darius Slay and Quandre Diggs must be factored in here, but Okudah and Duron Harmon offset that a bit.
Green Bay Packers
Picks: 1-26: Utah State QB Jordan Love; 2-62: Boston College RB A.J. Dillon; 3-94: Cincinnati FB-TE Josiah Deguara; 5-175: Minnesota LB Kamal Martin; 6-192: Michigan OL Jon Runyan Jr.; 6-208: Oregon C Jake Hanson; 6-209: Indiana OG Simon Stepaniak; 7-236: TCU DB Vernon Scott; 7-242: Miami EDGE Jonathan Garvin
Favorite pick: Dillon
If you want to engage in a value discussion, we’re willing to do it. A fairly one-dimensional power runner with the 62nd pick might not be masterclass draft strategy, but the receivers were a bit picked over by that point, and it felt like they were upset Denzel Mims didn’t slide just a few more picks to that slot. Either way, there was no guarantee Dillon would last to them in Round 3 (he was our 79th best prospect), and he’s bound to win over dubious Packers fans with a bruising style that will appeal to their hard-nosed sensibilities in time. In a pair with Aaron Jones, it’s a winning duo.
Least-favorite pick: Deguara
Listening to the Packers gush about him after the selection can ease our minds a bit, as it’s clear they view him as a Kyle Juszczyk type of performer. Coincidentally, our pre-draft comp for him was Danny Vitale, who averaged 11 offensive snaps a game for the Packers last season. Even if Deguara is an upgrade over that and closer to Juszczyk (a 25-30 snap-per-game player for San Francisco), it’s still hard to justify the value inside the top 100, even as fun a player as Deguara is.
Overall: Any grades before the players put on the pads are highly speculative to begin with, but this one especially. Love could make or break this class — in five years, our grade easily could end up an A or an F. Maybe it was a sign that a 13-3 team that was a game away from the Super Bowl doesn’t think it’s expecting to make that kind of run again in 2021. Or perhaps it’s reflective of how much Love impressed Brian Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur, and that they couldn’t let him get away. Not taking a true tackle or a wide receiver — in one of the deepest talent collections at that position in recent memory — can be questioned. But the Day 3 carpet-bombing approach to collecting interior OL depth and the Round 7 steal of Garvin was like a fine Baked Alaska following a meat-and-potatoes main course.
Picks: 1-22: LSU WR Justin Jefferson; 1-31: TCU RB Jeff Gladney; 2-58: Boise State OT Ezra Cleveland; 3-89: Mississippi State CB Cam Dantzler; 4-117: South Carolina EDGE D.J. Wonnum; 4-130: Baylor EDGE James Lynch; 4-132: Oregon LB Troy Dye; 5-169: Temple CB Harrison Hand; 5-176: Miami WR K.J. Osborn; 6-201: 6-203: Oregon State OL Blake Brandel; 6-205: Michigan S Josh Metellus; 7-225: Michigan State EDGE Kenny Willekes; 7-244: Iowa QB Nate Stanley; 7-249: Mississippi State S Brian Cole II; 7-253: Washburn OL Kyle Hinton
Favorite pick: Lynch
The first four selections will be more immediate contributors, but there’s something fascinating about Lynch. There were respected NFL evaluators we spoke with who weren’t convinced that Lynch’s tremendous production would translate commensurately to the league given that he’s a bit of a tweener and more reliant on effort to get sacks and TFLs — fairly understandable. But with the 130th pick in the draft, Lynch was well worth the pick. He was a top-100 prospect. Moving inside might slow his progression a bit, as he’s short-armed and not a dynamic athlete, but in the long haul Lynch will stick and become a favorite of Mike Zimmer and his staff.
Least-favorite pick: Osborn
He might have been borderline draftable, but this is hardly a sharp complaint given where Osborn was selected. It’s possible he makes it as a fifth receiver (on a unit that needs depth) and returner, which was his best role last season. The Hurricanes coaches named the first-year transfer from Buffalo a team captain, which speaks volumes, even if his skills are limited.
Overall: This class was like Rod Carew batting practice: one sharp line drive after another. In time there might be a discussion about the wisdom of the largest draft class in recent memory (15 picks!), especially given that they already own 10 picks in 2021 and could receive more in compensatory selections. Who cares that much about it now? They landed talent and value throughout and left nary a stone unturned. There might not be a star among the group, but it’s a cast of middle- and upper-middle-class performers who give this roster some nice reinforcements at several positions — especially those that were considered needs.
Picks: 1-16: Clemson CB A.J. Terrell; 2-47: Auburn EDGE Marlon Davidson; 3-78: Temple C Matt Hennessy; 4-119: Fresno State LB Mykal Walker; 4-134: California S Jaylinn Hawkins; 7-228: Syracuse P Sterling Hofrichter
Favorite pick: Davidson
Davidson and Hennessy were smart value selections at weaker positions in this draft class, so both deserve kudos. Davidson will work into a starting role in time and be worth the pick where they got him, as Atlanta’s DL depth was perilous heading into the draft. He can play base end or be an interior rusher, so that versatility is nice. Davidson is a good player who impressed with his toughness and versatility over four years in the SEC.
Least-favorite pick: Terrell
It’s not a terrible pick, and he might have gone off the board 19th to the Raiders, so there was no getting him in Round 2. As rough a night as Terrell had in the 2019 national title game, he was that much more impressive in the championship contest the year prior, so that narrative can die on the vine as far as we’re concerned. But he was a second-round talent, coming up short in his tackling and making plays consistently, along with recovering with speed after receivers got a step on him.
Overall: They turned the bonus pick acquired for Mohamed Sanu into Hayden Hurst, so that needs to be factored into the equation, and their first four picks and Hofrichter — if he wins the punting job, as expected — could all contribute early on. This was not the fireworks draft some expected, especially given all the talk of a bold trade up into the draft’s upper reaches, and we assumed they might snag a slot receiver or some RB depth. All in all, it reads as a workmanlike collection of talent that’s neither offensive nor thrilling.
Picks: 1-7: Auburn DT Derrick Brown; 2-38: Penn State EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos; 2-64: Southern Illinois S Jeremy Chinn; 4-113: Notre Dame CB Troy Pride Jr.; 5-152: West Virginia S Kenny Robinson; 6-184: Baylor DT Bravvion Roy; 7-221: Florida International CB Stantley Thomas-Oliver
Favorite pick: Chinn
Our only question with the Brown pick — which we heartily endorse — was whether Isaiah Simmons might have been the choice at seven? Part of that was assuaged by ending up with Chinn at the end of Round 2. It cost Carolina a fifth-rounder to slide up five spots to get him, but that was well worth it. Chinn needs some seasoning, and the uptick in NFL speed will tax him early on. Still, the nephew of Pro Football Hall of Famer Steve Atwater is a fascinating project with some Simmons-esque athleticism and could be a tight-end eraser in time.
Least-favorite pick: Robinson
There wasn’t a pick we didn’t like on some level, and Robinson was pegged to go in the fourth- or fifth-round range, so the value felt fine. The question is whether the former Mountaineer and XFL player can translate his playmaking skills to the NFL early on. An XFL talent evaluator we spoke with said Robinson’s play was up and down in that league, but it’s hard to gripe too much about a 6-foot-2 safety with nine combined interceptions (and 239 return yards) in his past combined 28 games in college and the XFL.
Overall: Do you like defense? Well, you better if you’re a Panthers fan, because the next offensive draft pick Rhule and Co. make will be the first. Rhule is starting fresh here and building up his defense in a division made up of savvy old quarterbacks. He’ll try to win games 16-13 early but could have a nice foundation here with 2021 in mind. We’re on board with this class and are excited to see the long-term results.
New Orleans Saints
Picks: 1-24: Michigan OL Cesar Ruiz; 3-74: Wisconsin LB Zack Baun; 3-105: Dayton TE Adam Trautman; 7-240: Mississippi State QB Tommy Stevens
Favorite pick: Baun
This is terrific value early in Round 3, as we expected Baun to be a top-40 or 50 selection, given his rush ability, athleticism and special-teams makeup. Even if his immediate fit isn’t easy to project, this pick will prove worth it in time. Alex Anzalone hasn’t proven to be reliable because of injuries, and Baun can replace him readily. Giving up a 2021 third-rounder to move up 14 spots for Baun is the only thing that mars the pick.
Least-favorite pick: Stevens
Not many options, given that it was a four-man class. Stevens is a total projection here — we’re laughing when we say he’s a poor man’s Taysom Hill, but it’s the truth. Would the Saints keep four QBs on the roster next year, even if two of them can do other things? Who knows? Anyway, it’s hard to get too lathered up about a reach in Round 7 because, well, there are no reaches in Round 7.
Overall: Few teams value the interior offensive line like the Saints, which made the Ruiz pick a smart one. Erik McCoy could move to guard, or perhaps Ruiz could; either way, they have a strong bulwark inside, and it’s the way they’ve built that unit year after year under Sean Payton. Trading four picks for Trautman seems high when you phrase it that way, but our 59th overall prospect shouldn’t have fallen out of the top 100. The top three picks all made good sense and will provide value, even if it all might not be fully realized until 2021.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Picks: 1-13: Iowa OT Tristan Wirfs; 2-45: Minnesota S Antoine Winfield Jr.; 3-76: Vanderbilt RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn; 5-161: Minnesota WR Tyler Johnson; 6-194: Nebraska DT Khalil Davis; 7-241: Temple LB Chapelle Russell; 7-245: Louisiana-Lafayette RB Raymond Calais
Favorite pick: Wirfs
The cost was steep, trading a fourth-rounder to move up one spot, but well worth it in the end. Wirfs should have been a top-10 pick, and it’s reasonable to assume they were tickled when he trickled into range. Go get your guy — Bucs general manager Jason Licht did just that, adding an incredibly athletic blocker who can play either tackle spot. The possible right tackle of today and left tackle of tomorrow was an excellent choice to help protect Tom Brady.
Least-favorite pick: Vaughn
It’s not who I would have selected at the 76th pick, not with Zack Moss, Darrynton Evans and Joshua Kelley still on the board. Vaughn excited us more in 2018 than he did in 2019, so it’s possible that Vandy’s weakened offense last season had something to do with his performance dip. Still, a Ronald Jones-Vaughn pairing figures to rate closer to the bottom of the NFL as far as RB duos go.
Overall: Wirfs was the highlight, and Winfield was an inspired second-round choice. The overall class has its bright spots. Calais might prove the better value over Vaughn, and Johnson can prove his draft doubters wrong by coming in as an unsung fifth-rounder. Did they regret passing on a QB? Is the lack of an early defensive lineman concerning? Those are questions we’re left with, but that wasn’t anything too worrisome.
Picks: 1-8: Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons; 3-72: Houston OT Josh Jones; 4-114: Utah DT Leki Fotu; 4-131: LSU DT Rashard Lawrence; 6-202: California LB Evan Weaver; 7-222: Arizona State RB Eno Benjamin
Favorite pick: Simmons
Boring going chalk here, but let’s first take a step back and look at what Arizona’s defense did last season:
Arizona Cardinals pass defense last season, by position
Tight ends: 127 targets/96 catches/1,148 yards/16 TDs
RBs: 110 targets/93 catches/788 yards/5 TDs
WRs: 332 targets/224 catches/2,764 yards/16 TDs
pretty much gashed by every position group last year
— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) March 3, 2020
With that in perspective, Simmons could be an outstanding antidote to the great NFC West tight ends (George Kittle, Tyler Higbee and Greg Olsen) while also providing a terrific blitzing option — it was his greatest skill in college, racking up sacks, pressures and tackles for loss. That back seven has great versatility and talent now, and we can’t wait to see the results.
Least-favorite pick: Weaver
There wasn’t a pick we didn’t like on some level, so this is a tad unfair. Getting Weaver in Round 6 makes our dislike very mild. He’s a smart, tough and competitive player who is held back by his athletic limitations, but even as a special teams firebrand, there’s value here.
Overall: They led off the draft with three straight home runs — Simmons in the first, DeAndre Hopkins as the de facto second-rounder and Jones a shocking fall to Round 3. We always saw Jones as an early second-rounder, not the top-20 pick some pegged him as in mock drafts. Fotu and Lawrence are terrific grunts up front, and the final selection of Benjamin even had us smiling. We also wonder if he might bring up this game to Weaver when they’re eventually allowed to cross paths:
Watch these two Eno Benjamin runs pic.twitter.com/dhkds3OPr1
— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) September 28, 2019
What a tremendous weekend for the Cardinals, building on the excitement of the Kyler Murray pick one year ago. They’re contenders now.
Los Angeles Rams
Picks: 2-52: Florida State RB Cam Akers; 2-57: Florida WR Van Jefferson; 3-84: Alabama EDGE Terrell Lewis; 3-104: Utah DB Terrell Burgess; 4-136: Purdue TE Brycen Hopkins; 6-199: Ohio State S Jordan Fuller; 7-234: Baylor LB Clay Johnston; 7-248: Miami (Ohio) PK Sam Sloman; 7-250: Clemson OG Tremayne Anchrum
Favorite pick: Lewis
For where they got him, Lewis could be a steal for the Rams if his medical concerns don’t become more worrisome. He’s dripping with upside and could be a 10-sack player. Lewis’ lack of experience at Alabama shows up in technical flaws, but I’d rather a team gambles on upside with a player such as this than try to bunt for a base hit, especially in a pass rusher.
Least-favorite pick: Jefferson
His projection to the NFL is an easy one, as he showed the maturity and reliability befitting of the son of a 13-year NFL receiver who now coaches the position for the New York Jets. In the hands of Sean McVay, Jefferson could be a solid piece in three-WR packages. But there might have been other fish to fry at that point of the draft, or perhaps receivers with higher upside. The 57th pick was a bit rich, especially considering what players were still on the board.
Overall: Akers was 45th overall on our board. He was held back by an unimaginative system at FSU and some horrendous blocking. The first won’t be an issue in L.A., but he still could be hamstrung if the Rams’ offensive line isn’t improved. We didn’t love the Jefferson or Fuller picks, but the rest of the selections made sense. General manager Les Snead has counted on his good scouting staff to find talent without first-round picks (get used to it, too), and for the most part they did a respectable job.
Picks: 1-27: Texas Tech LB Jordyn Brooks; 2-48: Tennessee EDGE Darrell Taylor; 3-69: LSU OG Damien Lewis; 4-133: Stanford TE Colby Parkinson; 4-144: Miami RB DeeJay Dallas; 5-148: Syracuse EDGE Alton Robinson; 6-214: Florida WR Freddie Swain; 7-251: LSU TE-WR Stephen Sullivan
Favorite pick: Lewis
Our 65th overall prospect, Lewis landed a few spots later and can help shore up a perennial problem area for the Seahawks. He might only be a guard, and has played only on the right side, but Lewis is a mature masher with the temperament to be a rookie locker-room leader. His fiery temperament and sheer mass provide good value up front, even if Lewis’ lack of mobility is something to be concerned about. Still, for a team that insists on running the ball, Lewis is the kind of blocker you want leading the way.
Least-favorite pick: Brooks
Brooks was a joy to watch as he’s a throwback linebacker with great run-stopping ability. Last season he really emerged for the Red Raiders. But his shortcomings in coverage are a concern, so we slotted him as our 91st overall prospect. It’s a pass-driven league, and Brooks’ challenge will be to become more than just a blitzer on third downs. Will he prove worth it? Hard to say, even with his intense demeanor and respectable athleticism.
Overall: Seattle does things its own way, public perception be damned, and you have to respect that approach. The staff is immune to outside influence and knows exactly what Pete Carroll wants in a prospect. Does it always net the Seahawks the best value? That’s debatable. But this isn’t the dumpster fire of a draft class some will say it is. Taylor and Robinson have moldable pass-rush ability if their character concerns have been diminished, and Lewis, a few of the late pass catchers and Dallas (a good pass blocker) should help out Russell Wilson.
San Francisco 49ers
Picks: 1-14: South Carolina DT Javon Kinlaw; 1-25: Arizona State WR Brandon Aiyuk; 5-153: West Virginia T Colton McKivitz; 6-190: Georgia TE Charlie Woerner; 7-217: Tennessee WR Jauan Jennings
Favorite pick: Kinlaw
We’re judging this one at face value, even though part of the appeal of trading away DeForest Buckner is that the team shed salary and created needed cap flexibility. Just as a prospect, Kinlaw (our No. 12 prospect) has some outstanding ability if his knee injury isn’t a long-term concern. Some teams were worried; the 49ers certainly were not, and he could give them 35-40 quality snaps per game next season as an interior disruptor and prove to be worth the investment. Adding a pick by moving one slot down also was a nice touch.
Least-favorite pick: Aiyuk
Kyle Shanahan is an excellent judge of WR talent, so who are we to judge? When he says he had Aiyuk as his top-rated receiver in the class (or even with CeeDee Lamb perhaps), we are compelled to consider his view. That’s not exactly how we saw it, so this is less a question of value — even with the trade up six spots — and more of a question of whether Aiyuk can prove to be better than the handful of receivers who went after him in Round 2. He might need time to acclimate to the NFL game but should be good in the long run.
Overall: Time will tell whether swapping Buckner for Kinlaw and trading up for Aiyuk were the right calls, and we’re willing to wait to pass judgment. Landing Trent Williams following the retirement of Joe Staley could prove to be a masterstroke, and there are some redeemable late picks in this draft class that could stick. It was always going to be an uphill climb with the lack of picks, but the 49ers made lemonade from lemons.
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