For one blissful evening, there was NFL action in real time: the draft. It may have been a draft like no other (as in we have no proof and reasonable doubt that the commissioner was sober) but it gave life a semblance of normalcy for the sports fans of the world. The first few picks came as no surprise, but towards the middle of the draft there were some very unhappy fans. There was also no lack of opinion from experts, analysts, and Twitter users on each of the first round picks…
- Cincinnati Bengals: LSU quarterback, Joe Burrow.
The only person who might be disappointed in this pick is Burrow himself because Cincinnati is akin to a football graveyard. Other than that, the Heisman trophy winner was the uncontested consensus to go first overall, after posting astonishing numbers down in Louisiana (60 touchdowns, 5671 yards, and an undefeated record). For all his accolades, the question, according to many scouts, remains: does Burrow have the arm strength to compete with NFL gunslingers?
- Washington Redskins: Ohio State defensive end, Chase Young
Bolstering their defense comes as no surprise under new Redskins coach Ron Riviera. Young slots in nicely among four other first rounders on the defensive line: Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Montez Sweat, and Ryan Kerrigan. According to Redskins scouts, they see Young as a player who uses his hands and feet efficiently and they hope the edge rusher can boost them from being the 21 ranked team in sacks. Long time Washington reporter John Keim wonders only if Young will be able to live up to the hype of being this year’s generational player, or if his impact will be short-lived.
- Detroit Lions: Ohio State cornerback, Jeff Okudah
After trading away all-star Darius Slay, it’s no wonder Detroit opted to go for a defensive back with their third overall pick. Matt Patricia’s defense (learned from the school of Bill Bellichick) thrives on a man-press, which Okudah’s 4.48 second 40-yard dash is perfectly suited for. Historically, rookie corners have struggled right off the bat, but many of ESPN’s NFL analysts think Okudah is in a position to have success sooner rather than later. The biggest question surrounding Okudah, according to Michael Rothstein, is how well he’ll be able to learn on the fly, seeing as offseason workouts against NFL receivers do not seem to be an option at this point in time.
- New York Giants: Georgia offensive tackle, Andrew Thomas
The Giants appear to be all in on Jones and Barkley, meaning they need to invest in protection. For those two to have any hope of leading this team out of the NFL basement, they need holes and time, making it imperative that Gettleman solidify the offensive line this off-season. His versatility and agility allow him to be a good fit in Jason Garrett’s scheme of mobile linemen, as well as giving him a good chance to be a starter at league kickoff. Personnel experts were widely divided on this position in terms of who the best available was, but almost everyone had positives to say about Thomas.
5. Miami Dolphins: Alabama quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa
Dolphins fans better practice their pronunciation because their team just selected what they hope will be their franchise quarterback for years to come. It has been 24 years since Miami has had a Pro Bowl QB (Dan Marino) and it’s hard to complete a rebuild without a star pivot. Despite his injuries, Miami took the chance on the once-projected number one pick since they see him as having the “it” factor. Resident Dolphins reporter, Cameron Wolfe, urges caution with the new centre after an injury filled college career has created doubt as to whether or not Tua can stay healthy in the NFL.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: Oregon quarterback, Justin Herbert
After letting franchise QB, Rivers, walk in free agency (not an entirely controversial decision) the Chargers needed somebody who could help the notorious under-performing team achieve their potential. A proven winner for the Ducks, Herbert would undoubtedly be LA bound after the Dolphins took Tagovailoa. He inspired hope in scouts at the combine and throughout college where he showed notable agility and impressive arm strength. He may be surrounded by established playmakers like Hunter Henry and Keenan Allen, but that hasn’t settled all the doubts floating around those close to the team, who wonder if he’ll be able to start as a rookie.
7. Carolina Panthers: Auburn defensive tackle, Derrick Brown
Before the draft, Carolina only had two defensive tackles on the roster, which made it no surprise that they grabbed another. Looking back at the tape of Brown at Auburn, opponents would run away from his side, making his run stopping a perfect fit next to Pro Bowler, Kawann Short. Adding his pass-rushing ability to the middle of the Carolina defense makes them as tough of an opponent as anyone in the league. Experts could only nitpick Brown after the combine, when they noted that he gets through on sheer size and power, and commented that his inside abilities could use some work.
8. Arizona Cardinals: Clemson outside linebacker, Isaiah Simmons
ESPN was calling this the most no-brainer pick as he fell into the Cardinals lap purely because earlier teams had needs elsewhere. Widely considered the best defensive prospect, Simmons seems to be the perfect complement to veteran pass-rusher, Chandler Jones, and a key piece to the team’s densensive rebuild. Speaking of rebuild, the Cards had spent the offseason revamping their front seven, which leaves questions as to whose spot Simmons would take.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Florida cornerback, CJ Henderson
Long gone are the days of fearing the Jags defense, and their cornerback spots were essentially empty after trading away Jalen Ramsey and AJ Bouye. When looking at the quarterbacks the Jaguars have to face this season (the likes of Roethlisberger, Watson, Rodgers, etc…) it was obvious that they had to strengthen their secondary. The addition of Henderson, who some analysts argue to be better in coverage than Okudah, surely accomplishes that. As good as his reviews in coverage are, there is no shortage of criticism from ESPN reporters on his ability and willingness to support in run stoppage, and watching film shows that Henderson sometimes lacks in communication on the field. This could be credited to the fact that he is newer at the position, only coming into cornerback during his senior year in highschool.
10. Cleveland Browns: Alabama offensive tackle, Jedrick Wills, Jr.
After Mayfield was sacked more than any other quarterback in the AFC, it comes as no surprise that the Browns decided to add a lineman to protect what they hope is still their franchise QB. Wills played on the right side as he blocked the blindside of lefty, Tagovailoa, but he joins a team who signed veteran right tackle, Jack Conklin. This could mean that the tenth pick would have to make the transition to the left side right off the bat.
11. New York Jets: Louisville offensive tackle, Mekhi Becton
Even with the addition of four new linemen in free agency, the Jets needed to find a long term solution to protecting their prized QB, Sam Darnold. His 6’7, 364 pound frame is deceiving, as many have said he plays like a man who is 100 pounds lighter. His blocking ability at that side enables more protection for the run game of Le’Veon Bell. For all his positives, Becton did have a flagged drug test at the combine, something that has yet to be confirmed as a red-flag or an isolated mistake.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: Alabama wide receiver, Henry Ruggs III
The first wide-out picked in the draft adds unadulterated speed to his new team. Despite the consensus top-three still on the board, the Raiders went with the fastest player in the draft as an answer to getting more weapons for Carr or Mariota. His speed also provides answers to having to compete with the defending champion Chiefs in their division, who have weapons like Tyreek Hill. His size is another element that helps cover for his less-polished pass catching abilities, a question marks analysts are excited to see answered (or not).
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Iowa offensive tackle, Tristan Wirfs
The Bucs headed into the draft needing someone who could protect their new senior-citizen QB, Tom Brady, and Wirfs is that someone. After giving up 47 sacks in 2019, and not resigning the cornerstone of that line, Wirfs has an opportunity to step in and make an impact immediately. His stellar combine numbers leave few questions, instead Tampa reporters are excited to see Wirfs work on his vertical pass sets in order to fit into Arians’ defensive schemes.
14. San Francisco 49ers: South Carolina defensive tackle, Javon Kinlaw
Getting a pick this high came at the cost of their stallworth tackle, DeForest Buckner, who they traded to the Colts. So with a pick one-slot lower than the return on Buckner, they drafted his replacement. GM John Lynch has been vocal about wanting to “strengthen a strength” and 49ers strength is undoubtedly their defensive line. While Kinlaw replaces Buckner at a fraction of the cost, those who followed his college career wonder if he’ll be as durable. Buckner had missed only one game over his four years with the team, whereas Kinlaw has dealt with knee tendinitis issues. His health will be paramount to the Niners remaining Super Bowl contenders.
15. Denver Broncos: Alabama wide receiver, Jerry Jeudy
There was no bigger hole on the Denver depth chart after Emmanuel Sanders, who didn’t play for the team after October, still managed to finish second among their receivers with 30 catches. His combination of speed and body control suggest that Jeudy should be a starter in Denver right away. His versatility is also an asset. His comfort in the slot (where he lined up more than any other position last season) means that he could end up often covered by the opponent’s third-best defensive back. His sheer dominance in college has made it so that he was rarely challenged at the line of scrimmage in college, something that the more physical cornerbacks of the leagues could force him to adjust to.
16. Atlanta Falcons: Clemson cornerback, AJ Terrell
After releasing former Pro Bowler, Desmond Trufant, the Falcons needed someone who could slide into their secondary right away. Thanks to Terrell’s size and speed, he appears to be that guy. Falcons faithful are hopeful that he can bolster the defensive backfield that gave up an average of 9.5 yards per pass attempt, second worst in the league. Mel Kiper Jr, ESPN draft expert, has pointed out Terrell’s habit of getting grabby at times, something he and coaches will need to eliminate immediately if he’s going to be able to help his new team.
17. Dallas Cowboys: Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb
If you went on social media at any point after the announcement of this pick, you probably saw Lamb snatchig his phoe out of his girlfriend’s hand and giving her a dirty look after she took it from him. His relationship aside, Lamb is another weapon for Prescott and replaces Randall Cobb. While their needs were on defense, the Cowboys opted to select the best player available, one who went off for 32 touchdowns in 41 games in his final year at Oklahoma. Seeing as they needed the plug holes on defense, Dallas seems to be betting on out-scoring opponents instead of stopping them in order to get their wins.
18. Miami Dolphins: USC offensive tackle, Austin Jackson
Dolphins quarterbacks were the most-sacked QBs in 2019, so plugging the offensive line with any form of talent was a must. Jackson’s agility and athletic superiority cements him as one protector of Tua, and offers the chance to bolster the run game, which was also the worst in 2019. As much as Dolphins front office seems to be banking on Jackson being a starter, Wolfe remarks that he didn’t have great outings against top-college talent, which calls his ability to be a consistent starter into question.
19. Las Vegas Raiders: Ohio State cornerback, Damon Arnette
Prior to the draft, many experts had Arnette slated as a third-round talent, which left many scratching their heads as to how he went 19 overall. But looking at the Raiders’ depth-chart makes the answer to that incredibly clear: they don’t have any corners. They were tantalizingly close to bringing in Eli Apple in free-agency, but the deal fell through. They also couldn’t put together a trade to get themselves a second-round pick, and with fear that he would no longer be around when they picked again at number 80, they grabbed what they needed. Raiders’ GM, Mike Mayock, has made it clear that the biggest mistake a team can make is “reaching for a need”, which at first glance is exactly what this selection appears to be, because in four seasons at Ohio Arnette came away with five interceptions.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: LSU outside linebacker, K’Lavon Chaisson
For the past two months, Jags DE has made it crystal clear that he no longer wants to play in Jacksonville, forcing the team to find a replacement. After filling an earlier need, the Jags took the best available pass rusher. Chaisson is a triple threat who can play the run, rush the QB, and drop into coverage. This versatility gives defensive coordinator, Todd Wash, an opportunity to try a new scheme, which he has been reluctant to dive into. Experts agree that if he doesn’t use Chaisson’s skill set, it is essentially a waste of a pick.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: TCU wide receiver, Jalen Reagor
If you watched a moment of Philly football last year, one thing was abundantly clear: they need someone who can catch a pass. Regardless of who was under centre, the Eagles receiving core was an embarrassment, and Reagor will hopefully be an element of fixing that. That being said, there were higher-touted and more productive receivers available, causing questions as to why they chose this particular wide out.
22. Minnesota Vikings: LSU wide receiver, Justin Jefferson
Jefferson was the consensus best slot receiver in the draft, and after being passed over by the Eagles, it was a no-brainer. The departure of Diggs left a hole in the Vikings receiving arsenal and Jefferson provided an answer. Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak just has to decide how he’s going to use his new duo within his formations in order to give Kirk Cousins the best chance to make completions.
23. Los Angeles Chargers: Oklahoma inside linebacker, Kenneth Murray
The Chargers may have two quality inside linebackers, but after releasing Thomas Davis and Jatavis Brown’s free-agency exit, depth was a concern. But with 17 tackles for loss in 2019 (fourth best in the Big 12) Murray makes a strong case to take on a more significant role than just a depth number. This leads to the biggest questions surrounding Murray: how quickly can he adapt to the NFL game?
24. New Orleans Saints: Michigan centre, Cesar Ruiz
Centres might be the most underrated position within the NFL, making this a “boring” pick for some, but it is the one position head coach Sean Payton identified as a draft need. The pick also fits into a long-term solution for the Saints, whose standout centre rookie, McCoy, will compete with Ruiz for the starting slot, with the other sliding to right guard to replace Larry Warford. Mike Triplett, Saints insider, questions whether or not making this kind of investment was the right decision when the Saints have lined themselves up to win now (a 41 year-old QB and 30 year old free agent signings).
25. San Francisco 49ers: Arizona State wide receiver, Brandon Aiyuk
After losing Emmanuel Sanders, the 49ers almost had no choice but to move up to grab a wide out. Scouts think that Aiyuk can bring them the same kind of route running and versatility that they got from the veteran and can offer Garopollo an added downfield threat. Due to the lack of a full offseason program, and Kyle Shanahan’s complex offensive system, questions remain about whether or not Aiyuk can make an immediate difference for a team that’s in the middle of their Super Bowl window.
26. Green Bay Packers: Utah State quarterback, Jordan Love
If Twitter is any indication there is not a single Packers fan who likes this pick. But GM, Brian Gutekunst, who has worked through the trading of Favre and drafting of Rodgers, knows that it will be his job to replace the future hall of famer down the line. Thanks to multiple teams’ mad scramble to replace a retired QB, it is clear that it is best to take you guy early when you see him. Jordan Love appears to be Gutekunst’s guy. The biggest question surrounding the pick has less to do with Love himself, and all to do with Rodgers. Experts wonder how the star will react to not only not being given any immediate help, but he had to watch his division rival, Vikings, take the best slot guy in the draft.
27. Seattle Seahawks: Texas Tech inside linebacker, Jordyn Brooks
The Seahawks have a bonafide All-Pro in Bobby Wagner, but as for who plays around him, they are swimming in uncertainty. Bringing in Brooks helps address the defensive issues that marred the team throughout 2019. With their other guys either on expiring deals or short-term bandaids, they desperately needed a long term solution. Brooks boasts stellar numbers, yet it’s still contested by draft projections as to whether or not he was the best available option, notably in comparison to LSU’s Patrick Queen.
28. Baltimore Ravens: LSU inside linebacker, Patrick Queen
The Ravens offense was a thing of beauty last season, but it was their defense that let them down in the AFC championship game as they got bullied by Derrick Henry. This was largely due to the fact that they hadn’t figured out a way to replace CJ Mosley. Queen doesn’t look or play like Mosley, but his skill set makes him the ideal centrepiece to a defense that prides itself on versatility. While his skills are unarguable, questions about the size of the National Championship Defensive player of the game remain. He is considerably smaller than middle linebackers have been for the Ravens in the past, and going back to the pummeling given out by Henry, having a safety-sized middle linebacker is questionable.
29. Tennessee Titans: Georgia offensive tackle, Isaiah Wilson
The departure of Conklin left a hole on the Titans O-line and Wilson simply offered a solution. His experience in Georgia’s run-heavy offence bodes well for him going into blocking for Derrick Henry. Wilson is a monstrous specimen, weighing in at 6’7 and 350 pounds, and he struggled to keep his weight in-check while at Georgia, which could present a learning curve for him with the team’s strength and conditioning staff.
30. Miami Dolphins: Auburn cornerback, Noah Igbinoghene
Despite cornerback being a position of strength for the Dolphins, Igbinoghene was the highest rated player left on the board, which is why GM, Chris Grier, says the team made the pick. It’s no secret that he may need some extra time in development, as he only made the transition from wideout to corner two seasons ago.
31. Minnesota Vikings: TCU cornerback, Jeff Galdney
According to Mike Tannenbaum, ESPN’s front-office insider and former league GM, the Vikings were facing what could only be called an emergency in the cornerback department. A priority in the draft needed to be finding a corner who could provide immediate help in 2020, and Gladney (who finished top in his conference in pass-breakups) seems to be the man to do it. While only 5’10 in stature, his 80-inch wingspan offers him a unique opportunity to be disruptive in the secondary. Throughout college, he excelled as a nickel defender, which brings up the question of if, and where, he can start on day 1.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: LSU running back, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
The Chiefs are relatively stacked at running back, which allows Edwards-Helaire some time to develop in the big league before having to shoulder a massive load. Many scouts have said his skills translate into pass-protection, making him a viable threat as a third-down back. Smaller than expected, Edwards-Helaire isn’t built for every down, making it doubtful that he could turn into a featured back and be the next Jamaal Charles or Kareem Hunt.