NFL Draft 2020 Results: The Biggest Steals, Reaches, Surprises from Day 1
The first round of the NFL draft is always shaped by steals, reaches and surprises. The 2020 version of the event was no different.
Joe Burrow went No. 1 to the Cincinnati Bengals. Anyone who paid attention at all to the buildup of the draft knew that was going to happen. Other picks? Not as predictable.
Before we begin, let's set some parameters for these terms. This is the first round of the NFL draft. Historically, each of these players has a shot at being successful based on their draft pedigree alone. Still, not all picks are created equal. After months of mock drafts, evaluations and college games, it's safe to say there's a consensus view on most of these prospects.
With that in mind, here's what we are talking about with steals, reaches and surprises.
- Steal: A player who was expected to go earlier than where he was selected and provides great value to his team.
- Reach: A player who was not expected to go as early as he did. Oftentimes this is exacerbated by a questionable fit.
- Surprise: An unexpected development. Unlike the steal and reach, there isn't a positive or negative connotation here. Just something that wasn't expected.
With those definitions serving as the backdrop, let's take a look at some of the major developments from the first round.
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Draft Recap and Big Board
Steal: Arizona Cardinals Select Isaiah Simmons at No. 8
Isaiah Simmons could have easily been a top-five pick and no one would have batted an eye.
Instead, the Cardinals were delighted to watch the Lions, Giants and Panthers pass on him as he fell to No. 8.
The book on Simmons is well read by now. He's among the most versatile prospects to come out of college. He played more than 100 snaps at five different positions, including outside linebacker, cornerback and both safety spots.
He shifted seamlessly between those positions while demonstrating a knack for making plays all over the field. He racked up 28.5 tackles for loss, 20 passes defended, 10 sacks, six forced fumbles and four interceptions in his career at Clemson.
As teams move to sub-packages on defense more and more, Simmons' value is only going to grow. He can play wherever you need him and never has to come off the field in nickel or dime packages.
Jeff Okudah, Chase Young and Derrick Brown are great defensive prospects, but there's a good chance that Simmons ends up being the best of the bunch. Getting a player who can compete with those guys with the eighth selection qualifies as a steal.
Reach: Las Vegas Raiders Make Henry Ruggs III the 1st Receiver Taken
Henry Ruggs III's ceiling is high. It's not hard to see why he's a first-round talent.
His 4.27-second 40-yard dash made him an NFL Scouting Combine superstar, and he showcased good hands at Alabama. He only had three drops in 123 targets in college, per Pro Football Focus. The concerning number in that stat is the number of targets, though.
That doesn't mean he should have been the first receiver off the board, though.
The Raiders are hoping that Ruggs will be their Tyreek Hill, DeSean Jackson or whatever other speedsters you want to compare him to. However, most of the dominant speedsters proved they could separate as the No. 1 receiver in their college offense.
Ruggs was anything but the No. 1 guy in Alabama's offense. While 15th overall selection Jerry Jeudy and 2021 prospect DeVonta Smith both had over 1,000 yards receiving for the Tide last season, Ruggs finished with 746 yards on 40 receptions. He wasn't close to being the top dog in 2018 as well, with Jeudy leading the way.
The tools are obviously there. Blazing speed and hands give him the potential to be a game-changer. But with more proven receivers in Jeudy and Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb still on the board, it sure felt like the Raiders were invoking the spirit of Al Davis and just chasing the fastest player available.
Surprise: No Trades in the Top 10
We were told that mock drafts were going to be even "wronger" than usual this season. Instead, we saw a top 10 of the draft that was mostly chalk.
Andrew Thomas as the top tackle taken at No. 4 was mildly surprising, but he was OT1 on Pro Football Focus' big board, among others. No. 9 pick CJ Henderson seemed more likely to be taken outside the top 10, but a corner with his man-coverage skills is expected to go high.
What was surprising was that there wasn't a single trade in the top 10. It was the first time there was no trade in the first 10 selections since 2015. The 49ers finally gave us the first trade, and even that wasn't necessarily a big deal. They moved back just one spot as the Buccaneers came up to get Tristan Wirfs to protect their Tom Brady investment.
With three quarterback selections in the first six picks, you would expect at least one team to trade up for its guy. However, that wasn't the case.
Steal: Dallas Cowboys Select CeeDee Lamb at No. 17
Dak Prescott just got another reason to get his contract situation figured out in Dallas. The Cowboys bolstered an already talented offense with a receiver who has a strong case to be WR1 in this class.
PFF ranked him as the No. 6 overall prospect in the class and the second receiver right behind Jerry Jeudy. The site also called him the "most advanced wide receiver prospect" in its six years of grading.
Wide receiver wasn't a glaring need for the Cowboys, but this is a perfect example of drafting the best player available. Matt Miller's player comparison for him is DeAndre Hopkins/Kenny Stills, and even if he only ends up somewhere between those two comps, he's a steal at No. 17.
The Cowboys offense was already one of the best in the league statistically. Lamb's ability to win in the slot and on the outside will make him a contributor right away, and he should develop with Amari Cooper to form one of the best receiver tandems in the league.
That's an opportunity the Cowboys couldn't have passed up.
Reach: Damon Arnette Goes in the 1st Round
The Raiders were definitely working with a different big board than just about everyone.
Making Ruggs the first receiver taken was interesting, but taking Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette with their second selection at No. 19 produced the first audible "who?" reaction of the draft.
There were a few first-round-worthy corners you could make an argument for when the Raiders were on the clock, even with Jeff Okudah, CJ Henderson and A.J. Terrell off the board.
Arnette was not one of them.
Arnette was the 13th-ranked corner on Matt Miller's big board. "Good backup who could become starter" isn't exactly the type of ringing endorsement you want in your first-round pick, but that's exactly what NFL.com's scouting report says in its final grade for the Ohio State product.
Playing across from Jeff Okudah with a pass rush anchored by Chase Young, it's safe to wonder how much of Arnette's success in Columbus came from playing with some serious blue-chip talent.
This one was a head-scratcher.
Surprise: Green Bay Packers Trade Up for Jordan Love
Jordan Love was everyone's favorite developmental quarterback coming into the draft. The Utah State signal-caller was a divisive prospect after throwing 17 interceptions in his final season with the Aggies, but he has intriguing upside because of his quick release, big arm and ability to make throws from multiple angles and on the run.
That he went late in the first round was not surprising. This isn't a reach.
That he went to a team that already has Aaron Rodgers under contract for the next four years is nothing short of stunning. On the surface, it makes some sense. Rodgers is 36 years old, and Love is probably not ready to play in the NFL right now.
The logic starts to fall apart when you look at the financial implications, though. According to Spotrac, Rodgers can't be cut or traded without a dead cap hit of at least $17.2 million until 2023. That would put Love in the fourth year of his rookie contract.
If another team had taken Love at No. 26, it would make sense. He has the potential to be a franchise quarterback. The fact that it was Green Bay that pulled the trigger on him is what makes this a shocker.
Steal: Baltimore Ravens Get Patrick Queen at No. 28
The Seattle Seahawks' loss was the Baltimore Ravens' gain. With the Seahawks taking Jordyn Brooks (more on him momentarily), the Ravens had the door opened to take Patrick Queen of LSU toward the end of the first round.
The pick itself isn't that big of a surprise. The fact that Queen ended up being the fourth linebacker (not counting edge-rushing OLBs) off the board is what makes this a steal.
Queen has all the tools you want in a linebacker in today's game. At 6'0" and 229 pounds, he has the size to play thumper in the run game, but with a speed score in the 90th percentile and a burst score in the 71st percentile, per PlayerProfiler.com, he has the athleticism to cover ground and be an asset in coverage.
NFL.com's Lance Zierlein compares Queen's game to Thomas Davis'. The All-Pro linebacker established himself as a force for the Panthers as a legitimate threat in coverage who could also get after quarterbacks as a blitzer.
The Ravens love to blitz and will put a lot on Queen's plate. He should be able to handle it and become one of the steals of the first round.
Reach: Seattle Seahawks Take Jordyn Brooks at No. 27
Death. Taxes. The Seahawks going off-book with their first-round selection. They're always picking in the latter half of the first round, so it somehow works out for them, but the Seahawks just about have the market cornered on reaches.
The franchise that has brought you such first-round picks as L.J. Collier, Rashaad Penny, Germain Ifedi and Bruce Irvin struck once again. Texas Tech's Jordyn Brooks was Miller's fifth off-ball linebacker. More worrisome than his overall ranking is what his weaknesses are.
"Didn't show much in terms of coverage while playing linebacker at Tech" and "lacks versatility of modern linebackers; won't play outside the box" are among the weaknesses Miller sees in his game.
Now compare that to the uber-athletic linebackers who went before him. Isaiah Simmons and Kenneth Murray are both considered to be able to cover in space and be three-down players.
The Seahawks have found gems in the middle rounds, which has made up for underwhelming first-round picks. It looks like they'll need to do that once again.
Surprise: 49ers Go All-In on Brandon Aiyuk
Conventional wisdom said the 49ers would be a likely candidate to trade back from the 31st selection.
The team entered the draft with no picks in the second, third and fourth rounds. They picked up a fourth-round selection (No. 117 overall) when they traded back one spot from the 13th pick with the Buccaneers.
It would have made sense for them to move back again with their second first-round selection and pick up more middle-round picks. Instead, they went all-in on Arizona State's Brandon Aiyuk by giving up the 31st pick, the 117th pick and a fifth-rounder to move up to No. 25.
The pick makes sense. After losing Emmanuel Sanders to the New Orleans Saints in free agency, the Niners needed another receiver. The team's belief in Aiyuk specifically was one of the bigger surprises.
Coming one win away from hoisting the Lombardi Trophy put the Niners in win-now mode. They essentially punted the middle rounds to add a piece they obviously feel can help them get back to the Super Bowl.
Steal: Minnesota Vikings Take Jeff Gladney at No. 31
The Vikings' mass exodus of cornerbacks this offseason meant they needed to come away from the first round with a starting-level corner.
When they traded back from 25th to 31st, they ran the risk of missing out on some of the best corners left on the board. The risk paid off, as Noah Igbinoghene was the only corner taken from the 25th pick to the 30th.
So instead of missing out on a top corner, they got the third cornerback on Miller's big board and his No. 1 slot corner.
The evaluations for the cornerback class were all over the place. After Jeff Okudah and CJ Henderson, the rankings of the next six CBs were all over the place. Gladney's only downfall may be his size. He's only 5'10” and 191 pounds, but no one forced more contested catches than Gladney.
His physicality and mentality will make him a great personality fit with Mike Zimmer in Minnesota. Getting a great fit at a position of need after trading back and netting two picks makes Gladney one of the best values in the first round.
Reach: Kansas City Chiefs Make Clyde Edwards-Helaire Only Round 1 Running Back
Let's preface this reach by saying that Clyde Edwards-Helaire will likely put up big numbers in Kansas City. He moves from the most exciting and prolific offense in college football last season to the most exciting and prolific offense in the NFL.
Regardless of where D'Andre Swift, Jonathan Taylor and J.K. Dobbins wind up, Edwards-Helaire is going to be the rookie running back to target when fantasy football drafts start up.
Two things can be true at once: Edwards-Helaire will be successful and the Chiefs reached by taking him at No. 32.
The problem is that the Chiefs just won a Super Bowl by rotating Damien Williams (undrafted), what's left of LeSean McCoy (a second-round pick in 2009) and Darrell Williams (undrafted) at running back.
There are legitimate needs on this roster. They need a cornerback after losing Kendall Fuller in free agency and upgrades to the defensive and offensive lines and linebacker corps.
Instead, the Chiefs decided to use their first-round selection on a position that didn't necessarily need upgrading. With Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, the Chiefs will be a top-five offense regardless of who is lining up beside Mahomes at running back.
Surprise: No Safeties Taken
The draft is always interesting because it gives insight into what teams value when constructing their rosters.
Apparently, teams aren't sold on the importance of great safety play. While six cornerbacks became first-round picks, not a single safety came off the board in the first 32 picks. That's partly because the safety class was somewhat underwhelming, but it also follows a bit of a trend.
The 2018 draft had three safeties that went in the first round. The 2019 version only had two. And this year's edition had zero.
Two safeties made Miller's final top 32. Xavier McKinney of Alabama (22) and Antoine Winfield Jr. of Minnesota (29) could have been first-rounders, but neither heard his name called.
McKinney and Winfield join Kyle Dugger and Jeremy Chinn as safeties who could be picked early on Day 2.