NFL Draft 2020: Round 1 Grades for Every Pick
This NFL draft, more than any other, is about hope.
- Hope that the Bengals are at the dawn of a new era of excitement and relevance;
- Hope that new coaches and regimes will someday bring championships to Washington, Carolina, Dallas, New York and (yes) Cleveland;
- Hope that the Dolphins can use their abundance of extra draft picks to turbocharge their rebuilding plans;
- Hope that Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and others join the new wave of promising young quarterbacks who will take us through the 2020s;
- Hope that Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb, Henry Ruggs III and a historic wide receiver class will make NFL offenses even more innovative and explosive;
- Hope that no general manager tries to plug a USB cable into a wall socket and electrocutes himself while trying to join a teleconference;
And of course, hope that we will all meet again soon, on the concourses, at the tailgates and in the taprooms, and celebrate the return of sports, and of something close to normal life.
These are the pick-by-pick grades for the first round of the 2020 draft.
1. Cincinnati Bengals
Joe Burrow, Quarterback, LSU
Bleacher Report's Pinpoint-Accurate Quarterback Comparison: A healthy, durable version of Carson Wentz.
The Bengals have drafted five first-round quarterbacks in their 53-year history:
Carson Palmer (1st overall, 2003). He sat for a year. Then he was great for a few years. Then he got hurt. Then he was pretty good for a year or two. Then he gnawed off his own arm to escape the Bengals organization at about the same time Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens literally turned the team into a reality show. (Coincidence?) Then he eventually became great again, but with the Cardinals.
Akili Smith (3rd overall, 1999). Mike Ditka offered to trade all of the Saints' draft picks that season, and much more, to the Bengals so they could move up to select Ricky Williams. The Bengals stayed put instead and drafted Smith, a one-year wonder at Oregon who (by his own later admission) lacked the maturity and work habits to cut it in the NFL. Ditka made the Williams deal with Washington instead. There are no real winners in this story.
David Klingler (6th overall, 1992). Klingler set a record with 54 passing touchdowns for the University of Houston in 1990. Back then, many teams would draft undersized run 'n' shoot quarterbacks, stick them into old-fashioned NFL offenses (which in those days still involved lining up under center in the I-formation) and wonder why it didn't work. The Bengals were one of those teams.
Jack Thompson (3rd overall, 1979). The Throwin' Samoan! The Bengals drafted Thompson to replace Kenny Anderson, who battled injuries throughout the late 1970s. Thompson kept flunking his starting opportunities, which gave Anderson more chances, which eventually led to Anderson's comeback years in the early 1980s. If Andy Dalton leads the Bengals to a Super Bowl because Burrow can't quite get the job done, it will just be an eerie example of history repeating itself.
Greg Cook (5th overall, 1969). The rifle-armed Cook had an exceptional rookie season, but he tore the rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder early in that year, and by the time the injury was properly diagnosed (practical MRI machines were still a few years away), his arm was irreparably damaged. The Bengals were forced to turn to noodle-armed Virgil Carter, which led a young assistant coach to build an offense out of three-step drops and short throws. That coach was named Bill Walsh, and his scheme became the West Coast Offense. And that's the rest of the story!
So the Bengals' first-round quarterback history is a strange slurry of bad decisions, bad luck and turning points in NFL history. Palmer had a career record of 92-88-1, but the other four combined to go just 15-57-1. Oddly, the Bengals had much more success picking quarterbacks in the second and third rounds (Anderson, Dalton, Boomer Esiason) than at the top of the first.
None of this has much to do with Burrow, who is more like Palmer than any of the others on this list and as close to a can't-miss prospect as you will ever find. Burrow will do his part; it's up to the Bengals to do theirs. They already started by prying open their wallet and signing a few free agents, most notably defensive tackle D.J. Reader. Now they must continue to use this draft class to jump-start their rebuilding process.
Drafting Burrow was the easy, obvious decision. There are much tougher decisions coming over the next two days.
2. Washington Redskins
Chase Young, Defensive End, Ohio State
Strengths: Athleticism, agility, explosiveness, motor
Weaknesses: Technical refinement
Someone asked Young at the combine to explain why he recorded zero sacks in his final three college games, including the Buckeyes' playoff loss to Clemson. "I had a lot of quarterback hits, a lot of pressures," Young said. "If you know football, you would see that. You'll see how they changed their whole offensive game plan for one guy. A lot of people might not know how to really study a tape or may not know how to watch football, but if you did, I made an impact in those games."
Fiery answer to a (frankly) dumb question. But was it an accurate answer? I took notes while rewatching the Big Ten title game against Wisconsin, and here is what I found:
Young was double-teamed on at least 12 pass plays. That includes plays where he was chipped by a running back before leaking into the flat. He was "triple-teamed" on a couple of those plays, though that has more to do with Ohio State's rush scheme (the Buckeyes sent Young from one side, and everyone else from the other side) than the Wisconsin game plan.
Young pressured the Wisconsin quarterback four times when single-blocked and once when double-teamed.
It's hard to quantify how much the Wisconsin game plan changed because of Young, but in addition to lots of sweeps and dump-offs to the far side of the field from Young, Wisconsin ran a draw play on 3rd-and-7 while trailing. That's conservative, even by Badgers standards.
Wisconsin ran a toss sweep to Young's side of the field on 4th-and-2. Young and teammate Jordan Fuller stuffed the play for a huge loss.
That's a pretty good zero-sack game, don't you think? But don't take my word for it. Michigan tackle Jon Runyan blocked Young during the first of those zero-sack games, and he gave a (very) detailed explanation of the Wolverines' game plan and adjustments to the media at the combine. Here's a partial transcript, which will roughly triple your knowledge of football line tactics.
Bottom line: Young is the sort of player who forces opponents to alter their game plans. There are typically only two or three non-quarterbacks per draft class capable of that. Smart organizations gobble those players up when they can. Not-so-smart organizations like Washington also gobble them up when they can.
The Skins have selected eight players in the top 10 of the draft since 2000: Chris Samuels and LaVar Arrington (2000, after brokering the Ricky Williams trade), Sean Taylor (2004), Carlos Rogers (2005), LaRon Landry (2007), Trent Williams (2010), Robert Griffin (2012) and Brandon Scherff (2015). That’s a fine haul, albeit with some outright tragedy and rotten luck mixed in. Washington’s problem is rarely identifying top first-round talent; it’s doing all the other stuff. So let’s give the Redskins the grade they deserve for drafting Young and then keep a careful eye on what they do next.
3. Detroit Lions
Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Strengths: Length, athleticism, recovery quickness
Weaknesses: Nobody's perfect
If you want to get a sense of the pure athleticism Okudah brings to the Lions, check out this clip of an interception by a teammate on a touchdown that didn't count.
Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller catches a tip-drill interception over the middle. Okudah can be seen at the top of the screen blanketing a deep receiver. While Fuller races for a touchdown (negated by a block in the back), Okudah catches up to his teammate and passes him from several yards behind, weaves through traffic, gets in the way of several would-be tacklers, leaps over opponents without breaking stride, and generally does the sort of things Tyreek Hill does to upstage teammates on their own highlight reels.
Okudah's own highlight reel is relatively dull (despite three interceptions last season) because opponents rarely challenged him. But break down his tape in detail, and you find an impressive toolkit.
Okudah has quicker feet than most of the receivers he covers, so he can match their footwork off the line. Not only does he not "lose speed in transition" (in non-draftspeak, he doesn't slow down when turning his hips and torso to chase his receiver), but it looks as if he actually gains speed. Receivers who appear to have a step on him when making their cut mysteriously lose that step almost immediately. Okudah is also exceptionally fast and has long arms to break up plays.
But enough of the jargon: Okudah was the best athlete on the field (Chase Young included) at one of the best programs in the nation, as that Fuller highlight demonstrates.
Okudah completes a comprehensive overhaul of the Lions secondary: He joins fellow newcomers Desmond Trufant and former Patriots (sigh) safety Duron Harmon on the back end of the defense, with Darius Slay now in Philly. It’s an upgrade—albeit an overcomplicated one full of moving parts, burnt resources and hurt feelings—of a unit that was pretty good in the first place.
At the rate the Lions are rebuilding, they will be contenders in 2029. But let’s not dwell on the negative: Okudah is an excellent player, and the Lions are moving incrementally in the right direction:
4. New York Giants
Andrew Thomas, Tackle, Georgia
Strengths: Mechanics, quickness, consistency
Weaknesses: Little technical details
Joe Judge has been the Giants head coach for three months now but has still not publicly mentioned a Giants player by name. I’ve attended or called in to several of his press conferences and checked with Giants reporters about others to verify this: He has not yet uttered the words “Saquon Barkley,” “Daniel Jones” or even “Corey Ballentine.” Based on his remarks at the combine, Judge doesn’t plan to mention players by name, either, lest he be accused of making a public comment that he must later go back on.
This is fine, Giants fans. Nothing weirdly paranoid about this at all. Judge has an adorable dog named Abby, after all, to whom he no doubt whispers his secret thoughts about Jones and Saquon. The Giants hired that guy from the baked beans commercial. That’s about par for their course.
At least the Giants didn’t ask Judge to announce the pick. “We have selected a player. But I will not tell you who that player is, or what position he plays, because I do not discuss my depth chart. EVER.”
Did you ever think the Giants would reach the point where Dave Gettleman seems like the rational person in the organization? We may be here, folks.
At any rate, let’s examine the things Andrew Thomas doesn't do well:
Thomas sometimes gets ahead of his legs and lunges when run blocking, negating his power.
He is also sometimes content to catch his defender in pass protection instead of walloping him. That allows defenders to steer him back toward his quarterback at times.
Phew. That was one exhaustive list of flaws. And now for the things he does well:
Thomas is smooth and quick when setting in pass protection;
He mirrors his defender's moves very well. Defenders who try to use a spin move to get away from Thomas sometimes spin themselves right into Thomas.
His "quick set" on receiver screens or quick inside handoffs are particularly impressive;
He slides off double-team blocks and adjusts to stunts and twists well.
He's capable of ancient barbarian warfare on the second level;
He pulls well and is shockingly fast when racing out to block for receiver screens.
Thomas has been an SEC starter since he was a true freshman and has either held his own or dominated against some of the best edge-rushers in the nation for three seasons. Few offensive linemen arrive more NFL-ready. Mekhi Becton, Tristan Wirfs and Jedrick Wills may be splashier options at offensive tackle, but Thomas has the potential to anchor the position for the Giants for a decade.
Gettlerman gets his Hog Mollie. Daniel Jones gets some protection. And Judge doesn’t have to mention anyone by name. What more can the Giants ask for?
5. Miami Dolphins
Tua Tagovailoa, Quarterback, Alabama
Bleacher Report's Pinpoint-Accurate Quarterback Comparison: Southpaw Jeff Garcia; Jittery Mark Brunell.
Tua appeared so suddenly in January 2018 and vanished so quickly when he suffered his severe injury last November that he's the quarterback equivalent of a unicorn. Yes, the highlights were mesmerizing, and "Tank for Tua" was a fun rallying cry when the Dolphins were trading office furniture for draft picks. But did we really see what we thought we saw? Is Tua the Drew Brees-caliber talent he looked like over Saturday afternoon beers? Or are we misremembering how much he benefited from Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, DeVonta Smith and the best year-in, year-out program in college football?
Make no mistake: Tua has an exceptional arm, fine mobility, a knack for breathtaking throws and the demeanor to handle big-game situations. He also has a bad habit of sailing throws and getting antsy in a collapsing pocket. His mechanics are wonky, especially when he's forced to throw on the move. Quite a few of his highlights involve Jeudy adjusting perfectly to a back-shoulder catch or Smith/Ruggs beating an All-SEC cornerback by a stride to get open. And of course, there's both the major hip and back injury last year and recurring ankle injuries before that.
If this all sounds more negative than the typical Tua scouting report, it's because he comes with such exceptionally high risk. Even if he were fully healthy, Tua would likely need a Patrick Mahomes/Lamar Jackson redshirt year to clean up his raw mechanics. Factor in the health concerns, and Tua's bust potential is as high as his boom potential.
Tua could turn out to be the quarterback he appeared to be for about 25 college games. He could also be a meteor who streaked across our Saturdays. The comps above suggest something in between: Garcia and Brunell were both tough, mobile gamers who could rack up wins and numbers when surrounded by Pro Bowl-caliber weapons. The Dolphins would be happy if Tua turns into a quarterback like that.
In any case, we probably won't be able to even guess which direction Tua is headed in until sometime in 2021. This selection will look like either an A++ or something much lower in a few years. Under the circumstances, we’ll hedge our bets, even though the Dolphins chose not to.
6. Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Bleacher Report's Pinpoint-Accurate Quarterback Comparison: Just a Jared Goff searching for his Sean McVay.
So how about those new Chargers uniforms, huh? They look like a field of golden and powder blue tulips, yet somehow rugged and intimidating. If they don’t make you optimistic about a brighter future, nothing will. (Though we sincerely hope something does.)
Now to find some dudes to fill those uniforms, particularly at quarterback.
Herbert helped himself immeasurably from December through February. He entered the 2019 season with the potential to be the top quarterback drafted this year but then went through a series of dreary performances, some of which (vs. Washington, for example) looked great on the stat sheet but underwhelming on tape. Herbert seemed to go through a long erratic streak in every game in which he sprayed deep passes, bounced would-be interceptions off defenders' helmets and threw back-shoulder passes to the front shoulder. He appeared to be on the Matt Barkley trajectory: great junior year, suspect senior year, knockaround NFL career.
While Herbert ran hot and cold on the field, the whisper down the scouting lane was that he lacked the confidence and temperament to be an NFL quarterback. NFL insider gossip may make you want to sigh, "OK, boomer," but it often turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy: If the decision makers don't like your personality for some reason, they aren't going to give you as many opportunities.
Herbert answered both his on-field and off-field questions in the winter. He led the Ducks to wins in the Pac-12 championship and the Rose Bowl: The stats weren't great, and his accuracy was still a little wobbly, but he made some "gamer" type throws and displayed untapped potential as a gritty runner. The soft-spoken Herbert then openly and honestly discussed his perceived personality flaws at the Senior Bowl and combine.
"When I showed up [at Oregon], I was shy and didn't want to step on anyone's toes, and the quarterback can't be that," Herbert said at the combine. "To be a successful team, the quarterback has to be himself; he's got to be genuine and real and he needs to demand from his offense and from the team what he needs to get out of them. I've done a better job of being vocal, stepping up and stepping out of my comfort zone."
Big wins, strong workouts and reassurances that he can handle a leadership role got Herbert back on the potential franchise quarterback track. Yet we are still left with an enigma. Herbert could be a Goff, capable of leading a team to the Super Bowl when working within a tight structure and surrounded by bolder personalities. He could be Josh Allen with lower highs but higher lows. Or he could be another Pac-12 superstar who lacks that certain something—whether it's accuracy or some intangible—and ends up bouncing around the NFL as a backup.
7. Carolina Panthers
Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Strengths: Pure power, disruptiveness, run-stopping
Weaknesses: Pass-rushing creativity, running around cones wearing shorts
If you want a defensive tackle who generates sacks by grabbing his blocker and tossing him at the quarterback, Derrick Brown is the prospect for you.
If you want a defender who gets double-teamed but still generates sacks, or is fast and alert enough to run on the field late against a hurry-up offense and make an open-field tackle, or has the raw power to pick running backs up and pile-drive them to the turf, then Derrick Brown is your guy.
But if you are looking for awesome three-cone drill results, look elsewhere.
Brown posted a miserable 8.22-second three-cone time at the combine, the lowest among defensive tackles. His overall combine performance was poor, and it sparked a mini-controversy among the same draftniks who assumed last year that DK Metcalf would run his pass routes like a cement mixer when he reached the NFL because of his poor cone and shuttle results.
As an analytics ally, it's my duty to point out that cone drills can be useful measures of explosiveness and change-of-direction quickness, two critical assets at any position. It's also my duty to remind you that combine results should be used to verify or reevaluate a player's film, not as poison-tipped darts. Brown has the tape of a Pro Bowl defensive tackle; the examples above were just the tip of the iceberg. One weak set of Saturday night workouts in shorts should do nothing to negate that.
The Panthers run defense allowed 5.2 yards per rush last season, the highest figure in the league, despite the presence of Luke Kuechly (now retired), Gerald McCoy (now in Dallas) and Kawann Short (now not lonely anymore, because Brown is here). Rebuilding the front seven should be one of Matt Rhule’s top priorities. The Panthers have a lot of work to do this weekend, but they just selected the best player available, and they filled a need to boot.
8. Arizona Cardinals
Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, Clemson
Strengths: Rare speed and athleticism, versatility
Weaknesses: Block-shedding, box play
Check out Kliff Kingsbury’s “draft war room.” It looks like the villain’s lair from some dystopian movie about a fake paradise in which the 1 percent raise the rest of us as livestock. It looks like the home of a Bret Easton Ellis protagonist. It’s the last room you see before you are indoctrinated into the cult and spend the rest of your life harvesting mung beans.
It’s also the room of someone who probably has fewer responsibilities tonight than you do. Steve Keim calls the shots for the Cardinals. So Kinsgbury can just chill in the San Fernando Valley or wherever that creepy-cool pad of his is located.
Simmons is the next stage in the evolution of the Tyrann Mathieu/Derwin James-type defender, capable of lining up anywhere from edge-rusher to slot cornerback effectively. That makes it fun to watch his tape and imagine what the great defensive masterminds of recent NFL history would have done with him:
Bill Belichick: Deploy Simmons as a speedy, slightly undersized outside linebacker, edge-rusher and short-yardage tight end, like a 2020s version of Mike Vrabel.
Every Belichick disciple who got a head coaching job, except for maybe Mike Vrabel: Sign Simmons away from the Patriots for $70 million after he has three great seasons, use him as a conventional linebacker and wonder why they are not getting the same results.
Buddy Ryan: Blitz Simmons 60 times per game.
Rex Ryan: Have Simmons line up like he is blitzing 60 times per game, then make him drop into coverage 50 of those times.
Rob Ryan: Not tell Simmons where he's supposed to line up at all. Make him guess, sometimes running on or off the field just seconds before the snap.
Tony Dungy: Give him the old Derrick Brooks role as the "Will" linebacker who operates in space, erases tight ends and slot guys in underneath coverage and blitzes exactly twice per game (and records 1.5 sacks).
Every Dungy disciple who got a head coaching job: "Tampa 2 means everyone stands in their little circles and waits for the play to come to them, right? That's how it's drawn up on Madden! Simmons' circle is that one on the right."
Gregg Williams: Brag about all of the different ways he will use Simmons and then line him up at free safety 30 yards behind the line of scrimmage and wait for the rest of the organization to implode.
Dave Gettleman: "Say, you're one of those post-millennials, aren't you? Can you show me how to jam this DVD into a USB port so I can install software on my whatchamacallit?"
Simmons is the ultimate all-purpose weapon on defense, and it's up to the Cardinals to use him that way. He must be used as a Derwin James-type nickel linebacker/slot corner/box safety/edge-rusher to be truly effective. If he's limited to any one of those roles, he will be just another solid player, not a potential superstar.
We will soon get to see what Cardinals defensive coordinator Vance Joseph plans for Simmons. It will probably be something good. But the Cardinals could have solved a big problem on the offensive line with this selection. That forces us to drop their grade a bit.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars
CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
Strengths: Size-athleticism combination, downhill plays
Instead of listing all the trades, trade rumors and Twitter beefs the Jaguars have been a part of over the last four months or so, it may be easier to just list all the veterans who are still on the team and in good standing at this point:
Gardner Minshew II: He’s just washing his Camaro, listening to Journey and keepin’ things real.
Myles Jack: Expensive, inconsistent big-name defender with some injury issues. The Jaguars will get around to alienating and trying to trade him by midseason.
Josh Allen: The pass-rusher drafted last year to be part of a great defensive line. Will be the only player on that defensive line you can name as soon as Yannick Ngakoue gets traded.
DJ Chark Jr.: He just had the one exciting year that fools the Jaguars into thinking he’s Julio Jones or something. He’ll be Marqise Lee in two years.
Tyler Eifert: The perpetually injured former Bengals tight end snuck onto the Jaguars roster when no one was looking in March and is now hoping no one notices him.
Andrew Norwall and various offensive linemen: The relative strength of the team. Could still use about two upgrades.
That’s it. The rest of the organization is going through a salary purge/culture change/mood swing. At least the Jaguars have lots of extra picks in this draft. They need every rebuilding block they can get their hands on.
Henderson produced a classic "college shutdown cornerback" stat sheet in his three seasons with the Gators.
2017: "Hey, let's pick on the freshman!" Oops: Henderson intercepted four passes and scored on a pair of pick-sixes.
2018: "OK, the kid's good, but let's just run our regular offense." Still not the best idea: Henderson produced two interceptions and three sacks.
2019: "ABORT! ABORT! AVOID HENDERSON'S SIDE OF THE FIELD!" Henderson produced zero interceptions (though he did break up a career-high 11 passes) and recorded only 33 tackles (a sure sign of opponents looking the other way) in nine games before suffering an ankle injury.
Henderson is big and well-built for the cornerback position and can run with anyone. He's a dangerous blitzer who also excels at breaking up running plays and screens in front of him. His biggest weakness is tied to his strength: He's a backfield peeker who will watch fakes a split-second too long in the hope of generating a big play. Henderson will allow easy completions on run-pass options while diagnosing the action in the backfield.
Henderson's flaws are correctable, while his all-around talents are rare. He was also a late riser on many draft boards. He’ll help the Jaguars—about 20 players on the board at the time of their pick would—but he feels like a slight reach at this point in the draft.
10. Cleveland Browns
Jedrick Wills, Tackle, Alabama
Strengths: Leverage, power, second-level blocking
Weaknesses: Lacks "blindside" traits
The Browns have become America’s Team.
They are built from two competing philosophies: one intellectual, scientific and lower-case “p” progressive (the Moneyball gang), and the other old-fashioned, traditional and small “c” conservative (the recently ousted John Dorsey gang). That dichotomy within the organization built a roster dotted with incandescent talent and tantalizing potential, but the Moneyball crew never quite lives up to its own ideals, and the old-school folks keep repeating “traditional” mistakes, and nobody in past regimes wanted to be bothered sweating the small stuff.
The Browns aren’t nearly as successful as America self-identifies as being, but...sheesh, take a look around. We’re all the Browns right now, like it or not. And their hope for a better future through data-driven decision-making (and old-fashioned hard work) is our hope, too.
Wills has a reputation as a jokester. For example, the folks at Bleacher Report's video department helped him announce his commitment to Alabama in 2016 with a video in which he tried on team color-coded suits for family and friends until he found the proper crimson-and-white choice. Funny? Maybe. But that Tennessee suit is orange nightmare fuel, IMHO.
Wills is a thickly built, wide-based blocker with solid technique and lots of SEC experience. He's quick off the line and shockingly fast when racing out to block for screens, and he will steal some lunch money when blocking linebackers or cornerbacks. There's no real weakness in Wills' game, but he lacks the elite traits of a top left tackle: His arms are a little short, and he lacks the lateral agility to mirror top pass-rushers.
The Browns can plug Wills in at left tackle (with Jack Conklin on the right) and be set for the 2020s, or move him inside to guard and get a guy with the leverage and consistency to hold his own against the Aaron Donalds of the world. I had Tristan Wirfs and Mekhi Becton ranked higher at tackle, but the offensive lineman the Browns preferred fell right into their laps.
11. New York Jets
Mekhi Becton, Tackle, Louisville
Strengths: Size, power, upside
Weaknesses: Technical issues
You may have seen Becton pushing a truck in a viral video in March. You may also have once pushed a truck all by yourself. Seriously, it's not all that hard. I did it to my beat-up old Sonoma a few times as a younger dude; Nowadays, I get winded behind a shopping cart. At any rate, Becton ran a 5.1-second 40-yard dash at 364 pounds and bench-pressed 23 reps of 225 pounds at the combine, two things neither you nor I have ever been capable of.
Becton looked like an uncle who suited up with the Pop Warner team when lined up next to his Louisville teammates. Google Maps says it's a 10-minute trip to drive around him, he can swallow pass-rushers who let him latch on, and at times, he simply swatted linebackers and defensive backs aside with a casual flick of his arms.
Becton also has better quickness and leverage than you would expect from a man his size. But he was an odd fit in a Louisville offense that often had him moving laterally or cut-blocking along the backside instead of just walloping the man in front of him. There's lots and lots of tape of a 350-pound road-grader trying to play like a 270-pound Alex Gibbs-style zone blocker, and the results were often suboptimal.
"It's just fun seeing a man on the ground every play and then going to jump on him," Becton said at the combine. "That's what I love about the game." That's what we love about Becton's game, too. He has the potential to be a special lineman if the Jets just let him haul off and shove defenders all over the field like they were nothing more than (midsize) pickup trucks in neutral.
The Jets haven’t drafted an offensive lineman in the first or second round since Vlad Ducasse in 2010. Sam Darnold and the Jets QBs were sacked 52 times last year. And the team averaged 3.3 yards per rush. And their big free-agent upgrades this offseason were center Connor McGovern (fair enough, he’s good) and Seahawks sixth lineman George “Reporting as an Eligible Receiver” Fant.
So Becton represents the Jets finally getting real about fixing their offensive line. Now they just need to get real about fixing every other position except safety. Oh, and paying their top safety.
12. Oakland Raiders
Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
Bleacher Report is proud to present Elite Receiver Report Cards, your guide to determining what the big-name wide receivers in the 2020 draft class do best.
Speed and Quickness: A++. Ruggs ran a 4.27-second 40 at the combine. He was also once clocked at 23.27 miles per hour during a game by Alabama's Catapult wearable tech, the fastest speed in program history. Ruggs displays remarkable stop-start acceleration with the ball in his hands. But his initial quickness off the snap is good, not great, and he doesn't win as often as you think he would against tight coverage.
Routes and Releases: C. Ruggs lacks a variety of releases. He runs lots of round little slant and out-routes against defenders terrified of his speed and playing 12 yards off him. He will have to be much crisper in the pros.
Hands: B. Ruggs catches what is thrown to him. He was not asked to make many contested catches.
YAC Potential: A. Evey quick slant to Ruggs is one defensive mistake away from turning into a touchdown. He can get bottled up on screens, but he also forces defenders to backtrack from the moment he touches the ball, leading to some something-from-nothing gains.
Blocking and such: B+. Ruggs is very alert and feisty. He will body up his defender and detain him when a teammate has the ball.
Ruggs draws inevitable Tyreek Hill comparisons, but he's more like a more durable Marquise Goodwin or reliable DeSean Jackson. He'll need some refinement to properly harness his blurry speed. His willingness to block will be a huge asset as he starts his career, since it will allow him to stay on the field as a decoy, making it harder for defenders to guess when the Raiders will run a reverse or take a shot downfield to get the ball in his hands.
The Raiders have an obvious need at receiver. The problem is that they needed a true all-purpose No. 1 receiver like CeeDee Lamb or Jerry Jeudy, not a pure speed guy. Ruggs will lift the lid on their offense. But who will take advantage of all the space he creates underneath? And can any Raiders quarterback even reach Ruggs when he’s 40 yards downfield? This is a risky pick. And the Raiders have a habit of getting burned by risks like this.
But hey, they picked the fastest guy on the board: The ghost of Al Davis surely abides.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (From San Francisco)
Tristan Wirfs, Tackle, Iowa
Strengths: Power, athleticism, alertness, finish
Bleacher Report Presents: The Bradyfication of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Like so many aging Americans before him, Tom Brady chose to leave the frigid Northeast for the warm weather and low taxes of Florida’s West Coast to enjoy what he has no doubt assured himself will be the best years of his life. He’s already expanding his TB12 health-and-fitness empire in Florida, which is the Brady equivalent of a Philly guy opening a cheesesteak joint (complete with trucked-in Tastykakes) in Clearwater. He’s also trademarking catchy, not-at-all-egomaniacal slogans like Tompa Bay and Tampa Brady, which is just his way of running for president of the condo association and imposing a strict lawnmower curfew. And of course, Rob Gronkowski has now joined Brady in the role of the goofy nephew crashing the couch during spring break.
Yep, Brady is ready for football games at 1 p.m. and early-bird specials at 4 p.m. It’s up to the Buccaneers to do the rest. So throughout these draft grades, we’ll check back to see how the Tompa Bay Buccabradys are doing with their various Bradyfication projects.
TOMPA BAY BRADYFICATION PROJECT, PHASE 1: Upgrade the offensive line. The Buccaneers allowed 47 sacks last year, the 11th-highest figure in the NFL, and a 7.0 percent sack rate, 17th in the NFL. Neither figure is terrible, but the line clearly was not quite worthy yet to serve as Archduke Brady’s personal bodyguards before this selection.
Now onto the pick ...
Here's Wirfs power-clean-lifting 450 pounds in the Iowa weight room. Oh, and for all you wannabe tough guys tempted to criticize his form, your black-card membership to Planet Fitness and memories from the junior varsity wrestling team don't make you a strength-and-conditioning expert.
Here's Wirfs flattening some poor opponent to win an Iowa prep wrestling competition in 2017. And here he is hurling a shot put a remarkable 66 feet, 3.5 inches as a high school senior. You get the idea. He's an unbelievable athlete.
Wirfs may be the best Iowa offensive line prospect ever. That's saying something from a program that produced Marshall Yanda, Bryan Bulaga, Brandon Scherff, Ross Verba, John Alt, Riley Reiff, Robert Gallery (a mega prospect who had a disappointing NFL career) and many other NFL starters and Pro Bowlers.
Wirfs was the first true freshman to start on a Kirk Ferentz Iowa line. He broke weight room records held by some of the guys mentioned above. His athleticism is evident when Wirfs is seen leading a convoy 20 yards down the field for his running back the way Walter Jones used to do for Shaun Alexander. As for power, Wirfs bulldozes defenders out of position like few linemen can do against major-program competition anymore. His collisions with defenders often sound like firecrackers on the game broadcast.
Wirfs played right tackle for the Hawkeyes and projects there in the pros. He has the initial quickness and awareness to play on the left side, but his mauling style is a better fit for the right, where he projects as a Lane Johnson or Jack Conklin type but with even higher upside.
14. San Francisco 49ers (from Tampa Bay)
Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina
Strengths: Power, hand usage, initial quickness
Weaknesses: Pass-rushing creativity
Kinlaw's family was left homeless in the greater Washington, D.C., area as the result of a business venture gone wrong when he was about 10 years old. Manie Robinson's 2018 profile on Kinlaw for the Greenville News dug deep into his rise from living in the basements of family friends to junior college to stardom at South Carolina.
Kinlaw offered a further glimpse of what life was like for him as a child when he spoke to reporters at the Senior Bowl.
"We went without electricity," he said. "No water. We had to use the neighbor's hose to fill up totes of water. We would take them back in the house. We had gas, so we'd light the stove with a little match or something. Get a tall pot, fill it with water, mix it with some cold water, put it in a bucket, take it upstairs, take a shower like that.
"But at a young age, we just thought that was normal. That's how we were living. ... It made me a man at a young age."
Kinlaw has a reputation for being as determined and mature as his difficult childhood suggests. He's also nearly everything a team could ask for in a 3-technique defensive tackle. He's one of the first defenders off the line on every snap, comes out of his stance low and uses his hands to keep blockers disengaged and off-balance. He holds his own against double-teams and gets penetration often enough to generate pass pressure.
If there's any real flaw in Kinlaw's game, it's his lack of elite pass-rushing moves.
"I just love to run through somebody," he said at the Senior Bowl when asked to describe his pass-rushing technique. "Point A to Point B. As simple as that."
It isn't always that simple in the NFL. But Kinlaw can still do plenty to help the 49ers while he adds a little finesse to his game. Adding Kinlaw with the pick the 49ers acquired in the DeForest Buckner trade was a shrewd way of getting younger and cheaper on a Super Bowl-caliber defensive line without sacrificing very much quality. And sliding down by trading with the Buccaneers will give them a chance to add another asset. Still, it feels like the 49ers missed an opportunity to add a piece that would put them over the top.
15. Denver Broncos
Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Bleacher Report is proud to present Elite Receiver Report Cards, your guide to determining what the big-name wide receivers in the 2020 draft class do best.
Speed and Quickness: A. Jeudy is deadly on a free release and will immediately eat up a safety's cushion on a deep route. He's very sudden off the line, with quick feet to set up releases and gain position on his defender.
Routes and Releases: A. Jeudy possesses a variety of release moves, including some tricky/savvy stuff (like coming off at half-speed in a bunch formation as if he's blocking, then accelerating into an out-route). He has lateral quickness off the snap like he's gliding on an air hockey table. He often wins in the first few steps. One caveat: He sometimes appeared to get a little frustrated by tougher cornerbacks.
Hands: B. Jeudy can make some catches away from his body and adjust to an errant throw. He does suffer from some concentration drops, though.
YAC Potential: B+. Jeudy coasts away from defenders in the open field when he's at full speed. He can take a shallow drag and turn the corner along the sideline upfield. On receiver screens, his suddenness at the line allows him to take two or three jab steps downfield before the ball arrives, putting defenders on their heels.
Blocking and Such: B. He's no Robert Woods, but Jeudy will throw his body around, and he remains alert and active after a teammate gets the ball. He once took out two defenders 7-10 split style on a DeVonta Smith touchdown.
Jeudy is the most likely of this year's receivers to develop into a Michael Thomas- or Adam Thielen-like route technician who can serve as both a possession receiver and a deep threat.
The Broncos got an all-purpose playmaker to pair with Courtland Sutton and help accelerate Drew Lock’s development. The Broncos offense will soon be above average for the first time since Peyton Manning got old. This pick could not have worked out better for the Broncos.
16. Atlanta Falcons
A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
Strengths: Size-speed package, press coverage
Clemson cranks out 6'1", 195-ish-pound cornerbacks with sub-4.5 speed as if it has an assembly line. Terrell's measurables are similar to those of Trayvon Mullen (whom the Raiders drafted in the second round last year), Cordrea Tankersley (Round 3, Dolphins, 2017) and Byron Maxwell (Round 6, Seahawks, 2011). Mackensie Alexander (Round 2, Vikings, 2015) and Bashaud Breeland (Round 4, Washington, 2014) were a little shorter but otherwise similar.
Like many of these former Tigers defenders, Terrell shines in press coverage and can deny receivers the ball on contested catches. But he can be overaggressive at times, loses a little speed when he turns to run and will whiff on some tackles.
Clemson cornerbacks can usually afford to beat up receivers on the line and not worry about what happens down the field because they are supported by top safeties and a nasty pass rush. Terrell has the tools of a top defender, but he's more likely to settle into a Breeland-like role as a second or third cornerback.
The Falcons have a dire need in the secondary, where Isaiah Oliver and Jordan Miller are currently penciled in as the starting cornerbacks. The problem is that this feels like a “need” pick. Frankly, there were better players on the board than Terrell.
17. Dallas Cowboys
CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
Shhhhh! Quiet please. Genius at work.
ESPN’s Matt Mosley reports that Jerry Jones asked his scouts not to disturb him during the draft. Mosley soon had to make it very clear that it was a joke (after a few hundred retweets). Still, you can picture it, can’t you? “Lock the door behind you. Leave the bourbon. Both bottles. Field Mike McCarthy’s calls yourself. Dak’s agent too. Finally, just me, my 12-name draft board and my old Jimmie Rodgers records. Now to win a Super Bowl. Wait, what is that clapping? That telltale clapping? Could it be…Jason Garrett’s spirit, still haunting me from beyond his firing? WHY WON’T IT STOP? ARGGGGGH!”
Fortunately, Jones has not really tuned out his son or his front office (he clearly had a few people in his little man cave with him). And with that, it’s time for another Elite Receiver Report Card, your guide to determining what the big-name wide receivers in the 2020 draft class do best.
Speed and Quickness: A. Lamb's fourth gear in the open field allows him to get away from anyone. He has quick feet upon release and can eat up a cushion when his cornerback is in off coverage.
Routes and Releases: B. Lamb is at his best when he's shaking away from coverage late in the down or during Jalen Hurts scrambles. He doesn't show a great deal of variety off his release, but he doesn't need to. Weaker defenders are almost falling backward at the snap to make sure he does not get past them.
Hands: A+/C split.Lamb mixes incredible 50-50 ball capability with a tendency to suffer a concentration drop late in key games (Kansas State and LSU) and come up just short on contested balls. He's the kind of receiver who looks like Randy Moss on the highlight reel but will break your heart twice per month.
YAC Potential: A++. Lamb gets used as the screen/reverse receiver often, and he creates shake-'n'-bake touchdowns when it appears that he has nowhere to run. He can also spin and wrestle away from defenders after deep catches.
Blocking and such: C+. Lamb was a willing stalk-blocker on runs and Hurts read-options, but he sometimes whiffs badly. He will get feisty and will try to pancake his cornerback at times.
Lamb has many of the best and worst traits of Odell Beckham Jr. on the field. He's thrilling every time he touches the ball, but unless he becomes more consistent, ill-timed drops and slumps will be frustrating. When they are on, Lamb and Amari Cooper will be one of the best receiver tandems in the NFL. But heaven help Dak Prescott if their slumps line up just so. Still, this is an exciting pick and an example of selecting the best player on the board instead of just drafting for need.
In other words, Jerry may have the last laugh after all.
18. Miami Dolphins
Austin Jackson, Tackle, USC
Strengths: Size, effort-hustle
Jackson is one of the feel-good stories of this year's draft: He took time off from football in the 2019 offseason to give his sister a bone-marrow transplant to correct a rare, dangerous blood disorder. Here's an ESPN video that tells the story better than we can in the space provided. Jackson told reporters at the combine that his sister was making a full recovery. "I was happy. I was excited. But most importantly I just thanked God. It was a miracle, and I was glad I could do that for my family," he said.
On the field, Jackson is a get-the-job-done type. He's big, strong and alert when reading blitzes or mirroring his defender's moves, but he's very mechanically stiff. Agile pass-rushers will be able to beat him to the inside at the NFL level, and he'll whiff at the last second on some open-field blocks.
Jackson's lack of agility could make him a liability at left tackle, but he's physical and determined enough to hold his own on the right side or serve as a quality multi-position backup. Jackson's technique is not pretty, but he's enough of a brawler to help the Dolphins.
The Dolphins allowed a league-high (tied with the Panthers) 58 sacks last season. They traded left tackle Laremy Tunsil just before the start of last season, of course, because a) they wanted to straddle the rebuilding/tanking line as tightly as possible; and b) Bill O’Brien was leaking foolishness and draft picks. But that left them with J’Marcus Webb, whom I thought retired in 2014, starting at left tackle for a while. They fielded one of the worst offensive lines I have ever seen at the start of the season, and it only got a little better as the season progressed. So Jackson fills a need. But the Dolphins have dipped into the second tier of tackle prospects. They should have tried to move up for a Tristan Wirfs or move down for more assets.
19. Las Vegas Raiders
Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State
Strengths: Technique, physicality
Arnette lined up opposite Jeff Okudah, so opponents had little choice but to challenge him. Per the Sports Info Solutions Rookie Scouting Handbook, Arnette handled the challenge well: 22 completions on 58 targets (a fine 38 percent completion rate) and 10 pass breakups. Of course, it also helps to have Chase Young rushing the passer and Jordan Fuller providing some deep safety support.
Arnette is physical in press coverage, and he's fundamentally sound in off coverage, but he isn't particularly fast nor quick. He projects as a Cover-3 type defender who may allow some catches in front of him but will quickly close to make the tackle. He'll be most effective as a second cornerback, just as he was for the Buckeyes.
This is a reach. And that's a problem because the Raiders have been reaching in the secondary for years, which is why they entered the draft with one of the league's weakest, thinnest secondaries.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars
K'Lavon Chaisson, Edge-Rusher, LSU
Strengths: Quickness, athleticism
Weaknesses: Technique, consistency
Chaisson is a lean, long-armed, blessedly athletic edge-rusher whose game is all sprint button and dive stick. He has a high motor and frenetic style, which sometimes results in explosive big plays in the backfield, but also sometimes results in long stretches when he just crashes at full speed into the left tackles.
Not to indulge in "program scouting," but Chaisson gives off a worrisome Barkevious Mingo vibe. He's very one-dimensional: His best plays against the run come when he reaches the backfield unblocked, and he drops into coverage (something he does often) like a gifted edge-rusher being asked to drop into coverage for some reason. He looks unblockable when he uses his swim move, but he doesn't use it all that often. If the Jaguars don't refine his technique and approach, Chaisson could max out as a situational 3rd-and-15 player.
The Jaguars are hoping Chaisson and Josh Allen can become a devastating pass-rushing tandem. There’s a chance that happens. If it does, here’s hoping the Jaguars can keep them together for a few years before blowing everything up again.
21. Philadelphia Eagles
Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
Time for another Elite Receiver Report Card, your guide to determining what the big-name wide receivers in the 2020 draft class do best.
Speed and Quickness: A. Reagor, a high school long-jump champion, ran a 4.47-second 40 at the combine. On tape, he has obvious, effortless speed, gets into high gear in a hurry and doesn't lose much when changing direction.
Routes and Releases: C+. Reagor almost always enjoyed a free release against soft coverage. His best route is "run real fast down the field," and he got some easy catches just by turning around against sagging coverage.
Hands: C-. Reagor is capable of acrobatics, but his catch-in-traffic capability is a real concern. He will cough up the ball if he's hit when it arrives, and he does not battle for contested balls very well.
YAC Potential: A. Reagor scored two touchdowns on punt returns last year and was often used as an end-around threat. He can outrun nearly everyone and will fight through tackles with the ball in his hands.
Blocking and such: D. Reagor doesn't relish contact when blocking, and he has a habit of watching teammates who have the ball instead of helping them.
Last year’s Eagles wide receivers disappeared (DeSean Jackson), were disgruntled (Alshon Jeffery), disappointed (J.J. Arcega-Whiteside), appeared disinterested (Mack Hollins) or were so discombobulated that they were publicly dissed by Philly neighborhood firefighting heroes (Nelson Agholor). Look for the Eagles to saturation draft the receiver position this weekend so Carson Wentz doesn’t spend next November throwing to two tight ends, a practice-squad running back and anyone they find who can run the Rocky steps without getting winded.
Reagor is the kind of screen-bomb-reverse threat who makes us drool this time of year but then has trouble taking the field as anything more than a situational weapon in the NFL because he cannot beat a jam, block or hold onto the ball in the middle of the field. He's reminiscent of Mecole Hardman in many ways and would be best off in a Hardman-like situation as an extra gizmo in an already loaded offense. That makes him a very risky, very suspect selection for an Eagles team that needs sure things (several of them) at wide receiver.
22. Minnesota Vikings
Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
Roger Goodell waving the pick card in front of a television screen full of remote fans as if he is Joe Exotic taunting a tiger with some expired supermarket food may be one of the most awkward things I have ever seen. But I digress. It’s time for another Elite Receiver Report Card, your guide to determining what the big-name wide receivers in the 2020 draft class do best.
Speed and Quickness: C+. Jefferson looks like a track star at full stride and ran a blazing 4.43-second 40 at the combine, but he lacks top initial or separation quickness.
Routes and Releases: B-. Jefferson runs lots of square-ins and short underneath routes. He varies speeds to get open and makes tight cuts at the ends of his stem. Initial quickness is not his strength, however, and he gets hidden inside in a lot of trips and bunch formations to help him get open.
Hands: A-. Jefferson has the possession receiver's ability to make a catch in traffic and hold onto the football after a hit.
YAC Potential: B. He's a big dude who can be a load to bring down, but he is not elusive. Jefferson dragged a defender into the end zone against Oklahoma, and his ability to generate yards after contact results in lots of 5-to-7-yard gains on screens and short stuff.
Blocking and such: B+. Jefferson is willing and effective, making him useful in bunch formations.
Stefon Diggs went 63-1,130-6 last season and caught 102 passes the year before, but he was cast as the disgruntled prima donna of the receiving corps (how accurate that casting was is open to debate) and shipped to the Bills for a first-round pick. The Vikings receiver depth chart now consists of Adam Theilen, Olabisi Johnson (he started six games last year and caught only one pass in three of them), Don Beebe’s son, Tajae Sharpe (former draftnik darling turned Titans No. 4 receiver) and some folks you have never heard of.
Jefferson had a few absolutely massive games—including four touchdowns in the Peach Bowl against a badly outclassed Oklahoma secondary—but he was often overshadowed by sophomore Ja'Marr Chase on a loaded offense. Some of his signature get-open tactics, including jogging through his stem and then suddenly squaring in or out, work better in the SEC than in the NFL. Jefferson could max out as Jarvis Landry 2.0 in the NFL. There are worse fates. And this is a solid pick for the Vikings, who have many more former starters to replace over the hours and days to come.
23. Los Angeles Chargers (from New England)
Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma
Strengths: Character, speed and range, productivity
Weaknesses: Man-coverage lapses
Murray's mother is a retired police officer, his father is a pastor, and he has several adopted siblings with special needs. He said at the combine that he watches 5-6 hours of film daily, and he once saved someone's life by performing CPR by the side of the road. In other words, he's the kind of person you hope marries into your family, and he's likely to grow into a locker room leader quickly.
Murray recorded 257 total tackles for the Sooners in 2018 and 2019, with 29.5 tackles for loss. He's fast, diagnoses plays quickly and has a closing burst when he's near the ball-carrier. He also excels at getting teammates into position pre-snap. When he's flowing around in zone coverage, it looks like coaching tape; he does little things (like getting deep the moment all of the underneath zones have cleared out) that you don't often see on college film.
There are lots of little quibbles with his game: He bites on fakes far too often in man coverage, overpursues some plays, gets wired to blocks and so forth. But it's easy to lapse into analysis paralysis about someone who makes 10-20 plays per game. When you're around the ball much more than most defenders, you're more likely to be spotted making little mistakes.
The Chargers will fall in love with Murray in the film room and locker room, iron out his wrinkles and turn him into a three-down linebacker and team leader. Seahawks stalwart K.J. Wright is a reasonable comp. Murray will make a fast defense faster and more dynamic.
24. New Orleans Saints
Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan
Strengths: Lateral quickness, experience
Weaknesses: Grabowski tendencies
This is an absolutely stunning pick. Second-round pick Erik McCoy won the starting center job for the Saints last year and played very well, though it seems clear that Sean Payton and/or Drew Brees were not completely satisfied. There’s also a chance that Ruiz will move over to guard.
Ruiz was a two-year starter for the Wolverines. He's a quick-footed low-center-of-gravity fireplug who excels at peeling off double-teams to reach the second level or pick up blitzers. He's feisty with his hands, although that's a double-edged sword. While he doesn't incur many penalties, Ruiz isn't very subtle about latching his mitts to a defender. Better defensive tackles can also drive him backward.
Ruiz should be able to make line calls and adjustments at the NFL level. He has the potential to develop into a solid starter. This is a hard pick to evaluate: On the one hand, the Saints have other needs and there are better players on the board. On the other hand, they know their offensive line better than anyone. So let’s err on the side of giving them a little benefit of the doubt.
25. San Francisco 49ers (from Minnesota)
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
Time for another Elite Receiver Report Card, your guide to determining what the big-name wide receivers in the 2020 draft class do best.
Speed and Quickness: B. Aiyuk ran a disappointing (but still very adequate) 4.50-second 40 at the combine. On tape, he's quicker than fast.
Routes and Releases: A++. Aiyuk has the best release off the line of scrimmage of any prospect since Michael Thomas. He uses stutter-steps, head fakes and variable speeds to cross up defenders early in his route. He snaps off the ends of his routes crisply and is crafty in the open field. He sometimes just vaporizes cornerbacks within the first 10 yards.
Hands: C-. Drops are not really Aiyuk's problem, but he's a body-catcher with a small catch radius, and he doesn't do a good job hauling in slightly off-target throws.
YAC Potential: B+. The same moves Aiyuk uses to get open allow him to escape defenders in the open field, both on screen passes and punt returns.
Blocking and such: B. Not much to report here.
Aiyuk has the quickness and route-running craftiness of Michael Thomas and the catch radius of a T-Rex, making him a polarizing prospect. He could catch 110 passes from the right quarterback, but he could make the wrong one look even worse with his inability to frame wild pitches.
Jimmy Garoppolo is closer to being the right quarterback than the wrong one, and Kyle Shanahan’s scheme is the perfect landing place for a receiver with Aiyuk’s unique skill set. The 49ers traded up to take the player the Eagles or Vikings SHOULD have selected. I was a little down on the Javon Kinlaw selection earlier because it was such a modest upgrade. The Kinlaw-Aiyuk combo, on the other hand, could give the 49ers exactly what they need to return to the Super Bowl, and possibly win it.
26. Green Bay Packers (from Miami)
Jordan Love, Quarterback, Utah State
That sound you are hearing is Aaron Rodgers' teeth grinding. He is grinding them so hard it is registering on the Richter scale. But before we delve into the psychodrama that's about to get very real in Green Bay, let's look at Love for a moment.
Bleacher Report's Pinpoint-Accurate Quarterback Comparison: 70 percent as good as Patrick Mahomes equals 90 percent as good as Drew Lock equals, er, maybe 110 percent of Jake Locker?
Every team wants to draft the next Patrick Mahomes. But searching for the next Patrick Mahomes is a great way to get coaches, scouts and execs fired.
That's the paradox NFL evaluators face in the 2020s. Mahomes is the new template for a franchise quarterback, but it's a template loaded with negatives. Mahomes was erratic and made risky decisions as a college quarterback. The search for more Mahomes-types leads to lots of big-armed, mobile, wildly inconsistent talents. Invest too heavily in the wrong guy and you may end up fired for selecting an interception machine. But playing it safe with traditional dropback passers is a great way to end up with Mitchell Trubisky instead of Mahomes. It's a lose-lose.
We're making the Mahomes comparison because Love welcomed it at the Senior Bowl. "I like that comparison," Love said. "We've both got strong arms. He obviously makes ridiculous throws off-schedule and stuff like that. It's something that I've tried to model in my game, just trying to make throws like that. And I hope to be on the same platform as him."
To be clear: Love is not in the same league as Mahomes. He does have a great arm and improvisational skill, plus a quick delivery when he's operating from the pocket. But he's not the one-of-a-kind athlete Mahomes is, and he throws too many Jameis Winston-style passes directly to underneath defenders. A better comparison for Love is Denver's Drew Lock, who also inspired some Mahomes comparisons because of his knack for quirky big plays.
The Packers, of course, have plenty of time to develop Love. The question now becomes whether he will become what Aaron Rodgers was late in Brett Favre's career—part heir apparent, part challenger and burr in the saddle—or whether he will prove too erratic to mount a serious threat anytime soon.
But make no mistake: the Packers made a statement by trading up for Love. Rodgers heard it. And we'll be hearing a lot about the dynamic between this promising rookie and the ever-so-slightly (heh) temperamental incumbent in the weeks and months to come.
Grade: C, for "Combustible."
27. Seattle Seahawks
Jordyn Brooks, LB, Texas Tech
Strengths: Size-speed package; play speed and range
Weaknesses: Block-shedding, coverage consistency
The Seahawks defense allowed 4.9 yards per rush last season, the fourth-worst figure in the NFL. Seriously folks: The Seahawks defense was mediocre-at-best last season; they just keep Jedi-mind-tricking both opponents and fans into thinking Earl Thomas still plays for them. They need an influx of playmakers over the next three days.
Brooks was a four-year contributor for the Red Raiders with some fun-to-watch tape. He's marvelously athletic on the run and is capable of making plays all over the field and knifing into the backfield. He has the tools to be effective in coverage, but he is sometimes slow to recognize what's in front of him. He can beat blockers as a run defender or pass-rusher with his size and burst, though he often gets wired up if a lineman gets a clean shot at him.
Brooks has the traits of an exciting three-down linebacker, but his instincts are a step slow. He's a high-upside prospect who can be a careening special teams demon at the very least. This was a bit of a reach, but the Seahawks had a very good track record with players like this a few years ago.
28. Baltimore Ravens
Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
Strengths: Speed and quickness, play recognition, coverage ability
The Ravens have drafted a player from LSU for the first time in franchise history! Former general manager/Alabama alum Ozzie Newsome must be the second-angriest person in America right now, behind Aaron Rodgers. Actually, Ozzie (who still hovers around Ravens headquarters when it is open) is probably pleased with this pick, because it’s a fine one.
Queen looks like a cross between two former Bayou Bengal linebackers: Devin White, whom he replaced last season and now plays for the Tampa Bay Bradys; and Deion Jones, who's now an excellent-when-not-injured defender for the Falcons. Queen has Jones' electrifying open-field speed and White's ability to knife through traffic to get to ball-carriers. His play-recognition skills are excellent for a one-year starter, particularly when finding the ball after read options, and he has the speed to handle running backs in man coverage.
Queen's weaknesses are quibbles. Offensive linemen can neutralize/pancake him when they latch on. He gets caught flat-footed every now and then while diagnosing plays, he's a tad undersized, and he could be a more consistent tackler. He should improve in all of these areas (except maybe the size) through experience and NFL coaching.
Queen will become a productive every-down starter for the Ravens, and he also should be ready to play an immediate role as a rookie.
29. Tennessee Titans
Isaiah Wilson, Tackle, Georgia
Strengths: Power, run blocking
Weaknesses: Quickness in pass protection
Wilson was Georgia's right tackle; Andrew Thomas protected Jake Fromm's left side. As you might expect, Thomas was the fluid technician, Wilson more of a mauler.
Wilson was at his best driving straight off the ball: He got low, manhandled a lot of opponents and delivered a nasty finish. He got the job done in pass protection, with a polished set and the alertness to read stunts and pick up blitzers.
Wilson lacks the elite traits of a Pro Bowl tackle, but he has a high character/effort reputation off the field and a bit of a mean streak on it.
Titans quarterbacks endured the highest sack rate in the NFL last year, getting dumped on 11.1 percent of their dropbacks. Marcus Mariota was sacked on a remarkable 13.5 percent of his dropbacks, but Ryan Tannehill was not much better at 9.1 percent. Quarterbacks are as responsible for their own sacks as their offensive lines are, but when two quarterbacks on the same team post high totals, it’s a sign of a problem on the line. And the Titans line didn’t get any better when Jack Conklin left for the Browns in free agency.
The Titans can replace Conklin with Wilson and be set at the position for the next five to seven years. Wilson doesn’t really make the Titans better, however. He just keeps them from falling too far backward.
30. Miami Dolphins (from Green Bay)
Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn
Strengths: Athletic upside
Igbinoghene started his Auburn career as a receiver, catching six passes and returning kickoffs as a freshman. He explained why he switched to defense at the combine.
"After my freshman season, three people said something to me about it. ... First I was sitting at my barber ... and my barber said something to me about it, because he used to play at Auburn. ... Then my pastor said something to me about it, and I said, ‘OK, this is kind of weird to me a little bit.' Then actually I met with Coach [Kevin] Steele ... he was down at the cornerback position, and he asked me to do it. I did it, and in six practices, I was starting."
Some NFL team should hire Igbinoghene's pastor and barber for its scouting department. Also, I really miss my barber. And yeah, my pastor, too.
Anyway, Igbinoghene's mother won a bronze medal for Nigeria for track and field in the 1992 Olympics, his father was an NCAA track star, and he was a high school standout in the triple jump. The tape shows a track athlete turned wide receiver turned cornerback, but the athleticism is obvious, and Igbinoghene likes to mix it up, both when pressing and when tackling.
This is an odd pick for the Dolphins, who signed Xavien Howard to a huge extension last year and then added Byron Jones as a free agent. But there is something to be said for building around one strong unit; for the Dolphins, the secondary is now that unit. And in the short term, they can stick Igbinoghene on special teams and in a nickel-dime role while they groom him as a starter. Unless his barber and pastor have better ideas, of course.
31. Minnesota Vikings (from San Francisco)
Jeff Gladney, CB, Texas Christian
Strengths: Quick feet, man-coverage skills
Weaknesses: Size, run support
Time to check in again on the Vikings to see how they are bailing their boat.
Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes could have been the cornerback tandem that propelled the Vikings to the Super Bowl. But Waynes never quite met expectations, and Rhodes peaked quickly and became a human crouton soon after signing a huge contract. Rhodes is now in Indianapolis, Waynes in Cincinnati, and a position of strength has now become a position of critical need for the Vikings.
According to the Sports Info Solutions Rookie Scouting Handbook, Gladney allowed a 38 percent completion rate to the receivers he covered in 2019 and a 33 percent rate in 2018. Those are excellent numbers: Ohio State's Jeff Okudah posted similar 39 percent and 34 percent rates, respectively.
Gladney may have the smoothest backpedal of any cornerback in this draft class. Receivers who try to put the moves on him in their first few steps off the line get nowhere. He's quick-hipped when it's time to turn and run, and he breaks on the ball quickly when the play is in front of him.
Gladney is only 5'10" and lean, and he's much more willing than able in run support. He also gambles a bit. But pure coverage skills will keep him on the field, even if he starts out as a nickel or dime defender. After all, who doesn't want a cornerback who turns two-thirds of the passes thrown his way into incompletions?
As with the Justin Jefferson selection earlier, Gladney directly fills one of the Vikings needs that opened up due to salary-cap constraints this offseason. It’s another safe, prudent selection. The Vikings are going to ride all of these safe, prudent selections all the way to an 8-8 record. At best.
32. Kansas City Chiefs
Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU
Strengths: Lateral quickness, receiving skills
Joe Burrow rarely missed an opportunity to gush about Edwards-Helaire's impact, and it's easy to see why when you roll the tape. Edwards-Helaire has nearly teleportational quickness when jump-cutting, excellent vision when rooting through traffic and the hands and open-field running skills to be valuable on third downs. He also has just enough power and finishing burst to be useful between the tackles.
His upside is Alvin Kamara; his downside is a useful committee back with enough juice to turn every screen pass into an adventure. Edwards-Helaire is a perfect fit in Andy Reid’s offense, which always has a role for a Brian Westbrook type out of the backfield.
Best of all, the Chiefs, who famously only had $177 in cap space a few weeks ago, now have almost $1.5 million according to the most official sources. So they will be able to pay Edwards-Helaire! Barely.