2020 NFL Draft grades: How did your team do?
Associate Sports Editor
Just over a week ago, the NFL was in the midst of the biggest sporting event the country had seen in over a month. Now with a long road ahead until the possible start of the NFL season, the questions about many teams’ 2020 draft classes will be amplified.
The grades will be given out based on an A+ to F scale. Factors taken into account such as the value of the picks, if the team filled needs on its roster, draft positioning, any trades and the amount of picks a team used in the draft.
The Cardinals needed help along their defensive side heading into the draft. In 2019, the Cardinal’s defense on average allowed 402 total yards-per-game to opposing offenses, a league worst. Of their first four picks, three of them were on the defensive side of the ball including versatile Clemson linebacker, Isaiah Simmons and defensive tackles Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawerence.
The addition of offensive tackle Josh Jones in the third round is a value pick as Jones projected to be selected in the second or possibly even first round. Jones solidifies an offensive line that looks to keep second year quarter Kyler Murray upright in 2020.
Similar to Arizona, the Falcons also looked to improve their defense. The departures of veteran Vic Beasley Jr. and Desmond Trufant left holes in a defense that already struggled to stop the pass, after giving up an average of just under 245 yards-per-game through the air. The first and second round selections of cornerback A.J. Terrell and defensive tackle look to help.
The Falcons tallied only 28 sacks as a team last year and were unable to address the defensive end position in the draft. The inability to fill such a need is what puts the team’s draft just above average.
On paper the Ravens look to have brought in a huge haul in terms of talent for a team that already is one of the best in the NFL. The first round selection of linebacker Patrick Queen filled the only true need on the team. In the middle rounds, the Ravens bolstered an already potent offensive attack with skills position players such as Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins and Texas wide receiver Devin Duvernay.
The amount of picks the Ravens allotted themselves, even after trading for NFL caliber starters such as Marcus Peters, puts them up there as one of the better draft classes of 2020.
Coming off their second playoff appearance in three years, the Bills are fully committed to winning games now. They did not have a first-round pick after trading it away in a package for wide receiver Stefon Diggs, however their first pick of edge-rusher A.J. Epenesa is a great value pick after Epenesa fell out of the first round. Running back Zach Moss allows the Bills to add a downhill power element to their rushing attack alongside starter Devin Singletary. Fourth round selection Gabriel Davis looks to add length to a fast, but smaller Bills receiving core.
All seven picks by the Panthers were defensive players. The first two selections of defensive tackle Derrick Brown and edge-rusher Yetur Gross-Matos shows the Panthers commitment to revamping a defensive line that struggled to stop the run in 2019. Safety Jeremy Chinn saw his name fall in the second round and the Panthers pounced on this opportunity by trading up into the late second round to get one of the higher touted safeties coming into the draft. The willingness to commit fully to the defense is what makes the Panthers draft class a success.
“Not bad, not great, just okay” is how one could describe the Bears 2019 season and subsequent 2020 draft. Their first pick, which came in the second round, saw the team take tight end Cole Kmet out of Notre Dame. While the Bears do have 10 tight ends on their roster, Kmet does add a much needed element to a Bears passing game that only averaged 205.7 yards through the air last season. Later in the second round, the team selected cornerback Jaylon Johnson. Defense is one of the lesser needs of the Bears, but in a league where offense dominates, there is never too much defense.
After the second round, the Bears only had five picks, three in the fifth round and two in the seventh. Time will tell whether or not their later round selections will pan out.
After going 1-15 in 2019, this team simply needed talent, and that is what they got. Selecting Joe Burrow first overall and grabbing Tee Higgins in the early second round allows the two to develop a connection with talented veterans such as A.J. Green and Joe Mixon alongside them. On defense, the Bengals filled voids at linebacker by selecting Logan Wilson out of Wyoming and Akeem Davis-Gaither from Appalachian State in the third and fourth rounds. They followed up in the fifth by taking defensive end Khalid Kareem. For a team that is looking for any improvement on both sides of the ball, talented players are all that can be asked for.
The Browns sealed up a huge need at offensive tackle by selecting Jedrick Wills Jr. in the first round. The selection of Wills looks to help give Baker Mayfield time in the pocket to utilize the offensive weapons he has at his disposal. The Browns also added safety Grant Delpit in the second round. Taking Delpit in the second offers great value as he was thought to be a first-round pick and one of the best available safeties in the draft. In the mid to later rounds the Browns picked up linebacker Jacob Phillips. Both Joe Schrobert and Christian Kirksey left in free agency and Phillips will be given a chance to start early, even with the uncertainty in terms of his fourth round selection.
The Cowboys started out their draft with a bang by taking wide receiver CeeDee Lamb in the first round. Lamb is touted as one of the top three receivers in the 2020 class. However, the Cowboys ability to still add positions of need is what stood out. The addition of Trevon Diggs and Reggie Robinson at cornerback adds two players looking to shape a Cowboys secondary that has been a mixed bag in terms of results the past few seasons. Adding center Tyler Biadasz in the fourth round also brings in a possible replacement at the position, after center Travis Frederick retired during the offseason.
The Broncos seem to be all-in on second-year quarterback Drew Lock and this year’s draft showed. The Broncos double dipped in the first and second round on receiver, taking Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler. Jeudy’s versatile route running and Hamler’s speed look to bring a new element to an offense that averaged only 212.6 receiving-yards-per game last season. The only knock is the team’s inability in the draft to take an offensive tackle to ensure Drew Lock gets the protection he needs to get the ball to his new playmakers on offense.
The Lions, even after late speculation that they would take defensive tackle Derrick Brown, selected cornerback Jeff Okudah with the third pick in the draft. Okudah is the best corner in the draft hands down, and after trading away all-pro cornerback Darius Slay to the Eagles the Lions were in need for someone to fill the shoes of Slay. The Lions also looked to address the needs of their interior offensive line play and guards Jonah Jackson and Logan Stenburg in the third and fourth rounds. The moves on the interior line help bolster the protection to veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford, who has had his share of injuries since joining the team in 2009.
Green Bay Packers
In one of the most shocking picks of the first round and possibly the whole draft, the Packers selected quarterback Jordan Love. Not only did they draft Love with Super Bowl champion and future hall of famer Aaron Rodgers locked-in to a contract with a cap hit of over $125 million dollars the next four years, they traded away a fourth-round pick to do it. The Packers then followed up in the second round with selecting running back A.J. Dillion, even though running back Aaron Jones had a breakout season in 2019 that saw him rush for over 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns. The Packers filled some needs at positions such as tight end and linebacker in the later rounds, but the Packers inability to not get help on defense or another wide reciever for Aaron Rodgers in the early rounds is not the key to winning games now or in the future.
The Texans only had five picks to work with in this year’s draft, including no first rounder. After the departure of defensive tackle D.J. Reader in free agency, the Texans spent their first pick of the draft on defensive tackle Ross Blacklock to provide a similar interior run stuffer that Reader proved to be in Houston. Paired with outside linebacker Jonathan Greenard in the third round the Texans looked to improve a front seven that struggled to stop the run last season. The addition of offensive tackle Charlie Heck bolsters the depth of an offensive line that struggled to protect Deshaun Watson.
Similar to their division foes in Houston, the Colts entered the draft with no first-round pick after trading it away for defensive tackle Deforest Buckner earlier in the offseason. The Colts used their two second-round picks on big-bodied wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Jonathan Taylor. Pittman provides a bigger target for new quarterback Phillip Rivers and the pairing of Pittman with number one receiver T.Y. Hilton helps a receiving core that averaged just over 207 yards-per-game, third worst in 2019. Taylor, a two-time 2,000 yard-rusher at Wisconsin, adds another element to a Colts’ rushing game that ranked seventh in league. The Colts are looking to use this young talent to go all-in on a championship push in 2020.
The Jaguars went heavy on defense with their two first-round selections. Cornerback C.J. Henderson looks to be the replacement for Jalen Ramsey who got dealt to the Rams in the middle of the 2019 season. The Jaguars also selected edge-rusher K’Lavon Chaisson to join a front seven that looks to rebuild its former moniker of “Sacksonville.” Similar to Henderson, Chaisson looks to be a replacement for pass-rusher Yannick Ngkaoue, who has openly voiced his desire to be traded out of Jacksonville. The Jaguars also took burner Laviska Sheault Jr. in the second round to pair up with wide receiver D.J. Chark. The Jaguars also added depth to both sides of the lines with defensive tackle Davon Hamilton and offensive tackle Ben Bartch. The Jaguars seem to be content with letting Gardner Minshew take the helm of the offense in 2020 to see if he is truly their future answer at quarterback.
Kansas City Chiefs
The reigning super bowl champions came into the draft if anything looking for help on defense. However, early on they opted to take running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and improve a running game that ranked in the bottom ten of rushing yards-per-game. The Chiefs went with linebacker Willie Gay Jr. in the second round, who looks to step into a starting role right away to improve a front seven that allowed over 128 yards-per-game on the ground. The Chiefs also added depth in the secondary with their fourth-round pick, safety L’Jarius Sneed.
Los Angeles Chargers
After the departure of longtime quarterback Phillip Rivers the Chargers jumped on their first opportunity to draft a young quarterback and took Justin Herbert with the sixth overall pick. Herbert’s size, arm strength and athleticism are what make him such an attractive prospect. However, he has shown some inconsistencies in his decision making and his ability to win big games in college. The Chargers also added linebacker Kenneth Murray after trading up into the late half of the first round. Murray uses his speed to his advantage and is able to play a versatile role in run-and-pass coverage. The fourth round selection of running back Joshua Kelley provides a man to back up Austin Eckler, after Melvin Gordon went to the Denver Broncos in free agency.
Los Angeles Rams
The Rams used their second-round pick to select running back Cam Akers. He will replace Todd Gurley, who was released by the team this offseason. Akers had multiple 1,000-yard seasons at Florida State and will be given every opportunity by the team to be the Rams go-to running back. The Rams also added receiver Van Jefferson in the third round, who will be tasked with filling the spot that Brandin Cooks left after being traded to the Texans. Jefferson’s route-running ability should help him start out as a third option for Jared Goff, with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods both having more than 1,000 receiving yards last season.
Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders last year proved that, when it comes to drafting, they take the players they think will fit into their system. This did not change in 2020. The Raiders had two first-round picks and used the first on Henry Ruggs III. Ruggs’ speed is what made him one of the top wide receiver prospects in the draft, and if he can develop the ability to beat press coverage consistently, he will be a nightmare for defenses. Along with Ruggs, the Raiders added depth at the position with Lynn Bowden Jr. and Bryan Edwards. The other first rounder came at cornerback with the selection of Damon Arnette. Arnette joins a Raiders secondary that on average allowed 12.9 yards-per-catch, which is the second worst in the entire league. Arnette projected to be a second-round pick and has the chance to prove the doubters wrong with a starting role on the Raiders defense.
There are questions that surround the Dolphins selection of quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, as he is coming off a severe hip injury that ended his season at Alabama. However, if he stays healthy, the Dolphins will have drafted one of the best quarterback prospects in the draft. The Dolphins utilized two more first-round picks to sure up the offensive line by drafting tackle Austin Jackson and adding cornerback Noah Igbinoghene to a cornerback room that already has two experienced veterans in Byron Jones and Xavien Howard. The Dolphins spent a lot of money in free agency this offseason, and the idea seems to be that the team wants to start winning now, then keep building for the future.
The Vikings saw multiple franchise favorites leave in free agency and trades. The Vikings used the first of two first-round picks to select wide receiver Justin Jefferson. He will be paired with Adam Theilen and try to fill in the gap left by the trade of Stefon Diggs to the Bills. Jefferson is not a deep threat like Diggs, but is able to play both the outside and slot position. Later in the first, the Vikings took cornerback Jeff Gladney to replace Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes, who both found new homes during the offseason. Third-round corner Cameron Dantzler will also play a role in replacing Waynes and Gladney. The selection of second-round offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland also adds protection to recently-extended quarterback Kirk Cousins.
New England Patriots
One should never question the ways of Bill Belichick. However, he did make some questionable moves during this year’s draft. The most glaring was the lack of drafting a quarterback. As the Patriots head towards 2020, their two main options are either veteran Brian Hoyer or second year player Jared Stidham. Hoyer is a proven backup in the league and Stidham has yet to take a snap in the regular season. The selections of safety Kyle Dugger and Josh Uche are two interesting prospects that could be a boom-or-bust type of pick. However, Bellichick does have his own methods in drafting that have proven effective, so it is hard to tell at the moment if this draft class is going to pay off or not.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints only had four picks in this year’s draft, but were able to make the most out of the position they had put themselves in. In the late first round, the Saints took center Cesear Ruiz. Ruiz was projected to be a late first rounder. However the Saints were not in need of a center, after drafting Erik McCoy in the second round of last year’s draft. The Saints were able to snag edge-rusher Zach Baun in the third round, a player who fell on the second day of the draft. Baun can line up both of the edge and as a linebacker, making him an ideal pick up after the departure of A.J. Klein.
New York Giants
It is hard whether to say the Giants truly reached on offensive tackle Andrew Thomas with the fourth overall pick. Thomas was touted as one of the top options at tackle in the draft and the Giants need to protect Daniel Jones if they want to have any kind of future success. The Giants added depth to the offensive line in the third round with Matt Peart, who could challenge Nate Solder and Cameron Fleming to the starting tackle spot opposite Thomas. The major steal for the Giants came in second-round pick Xavier McKinney, who projected to be a mid-first-round pick. Mckinney’s ability in coverage and tackling are what made him one of the best safeties in the draft and can instantly make an impact on a Giants defense that has struggled over the past few years.
New York Jets
First-round pick Mehki Becton has the size and athletic ability to hold down a Jets line that is in need of protection for third-year quarterback Sam Darnold. In the second round, the Jets were able to add Denzel Mims to a receiving core that lost Robby Anderson to free agency. Similarly to Becton, Mims is unique for his physical traits. Mims has the ability to change gears and get behind defenses. He also can use his big-body, standing at 6’3”, to come down with contested catches. In the fifth round, the Jets also got a great value pick in cornerback Bryce Hall who was expected to be picked in the third or fourth round.
The Eagles got help on the outside by adding three wide receivers including Jalen Reagor, John Hightower and Quez Watkins. All three provide a burst of speed to an aging receiving core that needs an infusion of speed. However, the pick that stands in the way of a higher grade is the selection of quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round. Similar to the Packers, the Eagles recently paid quarterback Carson Wentz. The selection of Hurts just does not seem to make sense unless the Eagles are concerned about Wentz’s long-term health, especially when names such as Kristian Fulton and Denzel Mims were still on the board.
The Steelers filled a need in the second round after selecting wide reciever Chase Claypool. Claypool is 6’4” and ran a sub 4.45 40-yard dash at this combine. These rare traits could allow the Steelers to stretch the field and take double coverages off of JuJu Smith-Schuster. The Steelers were also able to add linebacker Alex Highsmith, who played in a 3-4 defense similar to the Steelers defense. Even with Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers inability to take a quarterback that fell such as Jake Fromm is concerning since Roethlisberger is in his late 30s and is not getting any younger.
The Seahawks went with defense for their first pick and selected linebacker Jordyn Brooks to pair up with Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, two very experienced linebackers. The Seahawks were also in need of a pass-rusher and took Darrell Taylor in the second round. Taylor looks to fill the void left by Jadeveon Clowney, who may not come back to Seattle in 2020. The Seahawks also snagged edge-rusher Alton Robinson in the fifth round to add depth to the defensive end positions. The Seahawks ranked towards the bottom of the league in terms of total yards allowed per game, allowing 381.6 yards-per-game.
San Francisco 49ers
The super bowl runner-ups were able to wheel-and-deal throughout the draft in order to acquire more picks. First, the 49ers traded back one spot in the first round and were still able to take defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw to replace Deforest Buckner. The 49ers then traded up in the late first round to take wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, providing another target for Jimmy Garrappolo and a vertical threat alongside Deebo Samuel.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Now with Tom Brady at the helm, the Buccaneers needed to find ways to protect the six-time super bowl champion. Tampa Bay took tackle Tristian Wirfs in the first round to help assure Brady can stay on his feet. Wirfs projected to be selected in the top 15 and his size and athletic ability make him a great fit to plug in right away to try and win now. In the second round, Tampa Bay added safety Antoine Winfield Jr. to help with a Buccaneers secondary that allowed the third most receiving yards-per-game last season.
Coming off a Cinderella run to the AFC Championship game built on running the football, the Titans looked to improve upon this by taking Isaiah Wilson in the first round. Wilson provides stability to a line that recently lost Jack Conklin in free agency. Wilson will look to compete for a starting job alongside Dennis Kelly. Cornerback Kristian Fulton is a young addition to a Titans secondary that looks to fill in for Logan Ryan, who is currently testing free agency. Fulton is able to play in press coverage, which is key in a division with wide receivers such as Brandin Cooks and T.Y. Hilton.
The Redskins landed edge-rusher Chase Young with the second overall pick in the draft and that alone bumps the Redskins grade up. Young is touted to be one of the best prospects in the draft and joins a Redskins front seven that was 10th in the league in sacks with 46. The Redskins also added wide receivers Antonio Gibson and Antonio Gandy-Golden to add to a wide receiving core that is looking to put pieces around rookie-standout Terry Mclaurin. The Redskins also added tackle Saahdiq Charles in the fourth round. With Trent Williams getting shipped out to the 49ers, Charles has the ability to fill in on either side of the line as he played left and right tackle during his time in college.