Which 2020 NFL Rookies Were Drafted by the Wrong Teams?

Marcus Mosher@@Marcus_MosherFeatured Columnist IMay 3, 2020

Which 2020 NFL Rookies Were Drafted by the Wrong Teams?

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    During every NFL draft, a handful of players wind up on the wrong teams. Sometimes, the prospect doesn't make sense in a certain scheme or he's buried on the depth chart. In a few cases, a good player doesn't break out until much later in his career or even with a different franchise.

    A good example of this is Kyle Van Noy, whom the Detroit Lions drafted in 2014. The team never figured out how to use Van Noy, and the linebacker was traded to the Patriots in 2016 for a sixth-round pick after starting just seven games with the Lions. New England turned him into more of a pass-rusher, and he started 45 games as a big part of two of their Super Bowl-winning teams.

    Who fits a similar mold from the 2020 class?

    Below are 10 recent draftees who might not have landed in the best situation given their skill sets.

QB Justin Herbert, Los Angeles Chargers

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Despite all the smoke screens, it was clear the Los Angeles Chargers weren't leaving the draft without one of the top quarterbacks in this class. In fact, general manager Tom Telesco said they would have taken Tua Tagovailoa at No. 6 if the Miami Dolphins picked Justin Herbert at No. 5.

    However, Herbert might not be the best fit with the Chargers.

    Herbert has all the tools a franchise quarterback needs. He's got an outstanding arm and the velocity to drive the ball to the sidelines with ease. He's a great athlete, having run a 4.68-second 40-yard dash at 236 pounds and has shown the willingness to run. Herbert is also an aggressive passer, as he isn't afraid to throw downfield or into contested areas. 

    However, he doesn't process information quickly enough, which forces him to hold on to the ball longer than he should. That has resulted in too many fumbles (26 in 43 starts) and could be a big problem in L.A. Herbert also doesn't always handle pressure well, which comes back to the inability to read defenses quick enough. 

    Unfortunately, he will play behind one of the NFL's worst offensive lines. And as we have seen several times throughout league history, poor offensive line play can ruin young quarterbacks. Herbert likely would have had more success, especially early in his career, if he'd landed with a team such as the Colts or Raiders, who have established O-lines.

WR Henry Ruggs III, Las Vegas Raiders

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    It's easy to see why the Las Vegas Raiders picked Henry Ruggs III at No. 12. While CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy are the most complete receivers in the class, Ruggs has elite traits that are nearly impossible to find. He ran an incredible 4.27 40-yard dash at the NFL combine and posted a 42-inch vertical.

    The Raiders selected Ruggs to open up the rest of their offense, a la Tyreek Hill in Kansas City. The hope is that Ruggs' speed will draw defenders away from the likes of Darren Waller and Hunter Renfrow underneath. And if he can do that, he will certainly be worth the No. 12 selection, as he could have a major impact on the offense without ever touching the ball.

    But for Ruggs, the Raiders might not have been the best fit given his skill set. Derek Carr isn't an aggressive quarterback by nature and doesn't throw the ball downfield very often. That, in itself, could hurt Ruggs' production.

    Also, Ruggs will likely be forced to be the team's No. 1 receiver, which could cause problems right away. Instead of ending up in a situation like Denver or Dallas where he could have been a complementary option to start his career, Ruggs will face the top cornerback from each opponent every week. That could mean his efficiency suffers and/or his targets are sporadic, depending on the matchup.

    Ruggs is likely to be a valuable player for the Raiders, but there were more intriguing destinations for the former Alabama receiver.

CB A.J. Terrell, Atlanta Falcons

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    Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

    A.J. Terrell's selection at No. 16 by the Atlanta Falcons was one of the most surprising first-round picks. With Lamb and K'Lavon Chaisson still available, the Falcons could've taken a higher-rated player at that spot, according to most draftniks.

    However, Terrell will likely be forced to play sooner than he is ready. Atlanta's cornerback depth chart is thin, as veterans Kendall Sheffield and Isaiah Oliver could open the season as the starters. Neither of those players graded inside Pro Football Focus' top 75 cornerbacks in 2019, which means Terrell will likely see the field a bunch as a rookie.

    While he has the height, weight and speed (4.42 40) you want from a first-round cornerback, the 6'1", 195-pounder has a problem staying balanced, as he appears to be tight-hipped when he has to turn and find the ball.

    Terrell needed to go to a team that could sit him and let him adjust to the speed of the NFL. Instead, he'll need to be Atlanta's top cornerback too soon.

    Don't be surprised if Terrell's career gets off to a rocky start.

RB D'Andre Swift, Detroit Lions

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    Can you name the last Detroit Lions running back to rush for 1,000 yards in a season? That would be Reggie Bush in 2013 (1,006 yards).

    To say Detroit has had problems with the running game is an understatement.

    In 2018, the Lions used a second-round pick on Kerryon Johnson, but he's played just 18 games since, totaling only 1,044 rushing yards. In 2015, they spent the No. 54 pick on Ameer Abdullah, but he ran for just 1,251 yards in his four-year Lions career.

    Detroit is hoping to have better luck with another second-round choice after taking D'Andre Swift with the No. 35 pick.

    Swift enters a backfield with Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrough and Ty Johnson, which could limit his touches. Don't be surprised if the Lions use a running-back-by-committee approach, with Kerryon Johnson doing most of the inside running and Swift being used more on the edges and in the passing game. 

    Heading into the draft, Swift was regarded as one of the top running back prospects in the class and a decent bet to win the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. But now that Swift is in a committee and on a team that has struggled to run the ball over the last decade, his ceiling isn't quite as high.

SS Xavier McKinney, New York Giants

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    Alabama's Xavier McKinney, arguably the draft's top safety, started 28 games for the Crimson Tide and was named an AP third-team All-American in 2019 after recording four forced fumbles, three interceptions and three sacks. The New York Giants made him the first safety drafted in the class, at No. 36.

    However, McKinney's landing spot isn't ideal, as he is at his best when playing near the line of scrimmage in a strong safety/linebacker type of role. Unfortunately, 2017 first-round pick Jabrill Peppers already occupies that spot. 

    The Giants could move McKinney to free safety, but he tends to have problems in coverage. He doesn't have elite speed (4.63 40) or athleticism, and receivers can get behind him quickly. He's a significantly better player when he's heading toward the action, rather than retreating and covering receivers or tight ends downfield.

    Will new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham find a way to use McKinney and Peppers at the same time? Maybe. But it would have been nice to see McKinney go to a more well-rounded defense with a more proven defensive coordinator.

    Don't be shocked if McKinney has a rough start to his career if he's forced to play more as a free safety than in the box.

QB Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Butch Dill/Associated Press

    After the top four quarterbacks went off the board, all eyes were on Jalen Hurts at the position. Considering how productive he was at Oklahoma in 2019, it wouldn't have been surprising if a quarterback-needy team took him and started him right away, a la Russell Wilson for Seattle in 2012.

    Hurts' athleticism, composure and leadership all would've allowed him to have early-career success with the right team.

    However, the Philadelphia Eagles took him at pick No. 52. This was one of the biggest shocks in the draft, as they already have a young franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz, who received a four-year, $128 million contract extension last offseason. Since Wentz is only 27, an injury to the incumbent is the only way Hurts will get on the field much in the early stages of his career—even if there is a chance the Eagles use Hurts in a Taysom Hill type of package.

    While Philadelphia may be the best long-term option for Hurts, as he will be given time to develop and learn under head coach Doug Pederson, several other franchises may have been better suited for his services.

    This landing spot isn't awful, but it's not ideal.

WR Chase Claypool, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Phelan M. Ebenhack/Associated Press

    The Pittsburgh Steelers have an excellent track record of picking receivers who thrive in their scheme without ever having to spend a first-round choice on the position. 

    And that will likely be the case after they selected Chase Claypool with the No. 49 pick last week. However, while Pittsburgh may get a useful player, it might not be the best long-term fit for Claypool. 

    He tore up the combine, running a 4.42 40-yard dash at 6'4", 238 pounds. He also had an impressive 40.5-inch vertical to go with a 126-inch broad jump. According to Three Sigma Athlete, Claypool's SPARQ score put him in the 98th percentile among receiver prospects. 

    Claypool isn't just a great athlete, either, as he was highly productive at Notre Dame. He started 33 games for the Fighting Irish, totaling 2,159 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns. His best season came in 2019, as he caught 66 passes for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns and earned team MVP honors. 

    So why is Claypool an odd fit in Pittsburgh?

    Given his size and athleticism, his best position is likely in the slot or as a tight end. Claypool struggles to create separation on the outside and is a long way from being a polished route-runner. He is at his best when he can use his big body to box out defenders and snatch passes out of tight windows. 

    However, Claypool will likely play on the outside. Pittsburgh already has a big slot receiver in JuJu Smith-Schuster (6'1", 215 lbs), and James Washington and Diontae Johnson project as outside receivers. Washington and Johnson both played well last season even though Ben Roethlisberger missed most of the year with an elbow injury. Pittsburgh will continue to use those players on the outside, limiting Claypool's rookie snaps.

    If Claypool is an outside-only receiver, then he may never reach his ceiling as he just doesn't have the quickness and flexibility to win on the edges. It would have been fun to see him join a team more open to using his size and physicality in the middle of the field.

RB Antonio Gibson, Washington Redskins

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    Offensive weapon Antonio Gibson was one of the draft's most intriguing skill players. During his Memphis career, Gibson got just 77 offensive touches in two years. However, he was one of the nation's most explosive players, averaging 11.2 yards per rush and scoring an incredible 14 touchdowns on those 77 touches.

    Gibson participated in the 2020 Senior Bowl, bouncing between wide receiver and running back. Then at the combine, Gibson shined, running a 4.39 40-yard dash at 228 pounds. According to Three Sigma Athlete, he tested in the 84th percentile in athleticism at receiver, and he posted an impressive 35-inch vertical.

    But when the Washington Redskins selected him at No. 66, it raised eyebrows as Commissioner Roger Goodell announced him as a running back. That's concerning for his NFL future, as the Redskins' running back depth chart is extremely crowded.

    Washington brought back veteran running back Adrian Peterson but also has Derrius Guice returning after consecutive major knee injuries. In addition, the Redskins selected Bryce Love in the fourth round of the 2019 draft, and he should be back after a 2019 torn ACL.

    At best, Gibson will be part of a committee and probably won't get significant touches right away. The most likely scenario is that he is a special teams player as a rookie and potentially contributes as a receiver out of the backfield.

    Gibson could still turn into a solid NFL player, but it would have been nice to see him in a more stable offense that has shown a solid track record of knowing how to use this type of weapon. Washington may figure it out eventually, but there are concerns that he will be used only as a running back with the Redskins.

RB A.J. Dillon, Green Bay Packers

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    Everything about the Green Bay Packers' 2020 draft class seems off—from selecting quarterback Jordan Love in the first round to ignoring the wide receiver position. None of it made a lot of sense, as the Packers are in a Super Bowl window with Aaron Rodgers.

    But the most puzzling pick was the selection of running back A.J. Dillon at No. 62.

    The Packers already have a stud running back in Aaron Jones, who scored 19 touchdowns in 2019. While he is entering the final season of his rookie contract, it would be somewhat surprising if the Packers didn't hold on to him in light of how productive he's been over the past two seasons (2,492 yards from scrimmage and 28 touchdowns).

    Beyond that, Dillon appears to be a clunky fit in the Packers offense. He was a between-the-tackles runner in a more pro-style offense under Boston College offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian. He was at his best in tight formations in which he wasn't as asked to make sharp cuts or make defenders miss. Instead, BC employed him as a battering ram, similar to how the Giants used Brandon Jacobs in his prime.

    Dillon moves to an offense that is in the shotgun a majority of the time (59 percent, per Sharp Football Stats), and that doesn't fit his skill set, as he caught just 21 passes in 35 games with the Eagles. He's not a proficient route-runner and can't play in space, as he shows heavy feet on tape. Green Bay will need to change its offense to best utilize Dillon; otherwise, he may not have a lot of success.

    It would have been interesting to see how Dillon would have fit into an offense like those of the Ravens or Titans.

QB Jake Fromm, Buffalo Bills

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    It's tough to be too critical of any Day 3 pick, especially at quarterback. At that stage, teams are merely hoping QBs can develop into adequate backups. However, the Buffalo Bills' selection of Jake Fromm is one of the few Day 3 quarterback picks that doesn't make much sense.

    Fromm's game doesn't resemble that of mobile, strong-armed starter Josh Allen at all. So if he were forced into action, the Bills would have to change their offensive strategy to fit Fromm's style. That's typically something coordinators don't want to do if their starter goes down.

    Another issue is Fromm's lack of arm strength. It is one of the biggest reasons he fell to the fifth round, as he has an average arm at best. And for a team like Buffalo that plays in a stadium with strong winds and poor weather, his lack of arm talent will be on full display. It's tough to envision Fromm cutting through the wind and driving the ball to the sidelines in Buffalo. He will always be capped as a passer there.

    Fromm would have been better off going to a team like the Raiders or Cowboys, who use more West Coast concepts. Add the fact that both of those teams play in domes, and it's easy to see there were better fits for the former Georgia quarterback.