What Every NFL Team's Rookie Class Must Accomplish in 2020

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistMay 2, 2020

What Every NFL Team's Rookie Class Must Accomplish in 2020

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    The NFL draft is a strange beast. Fans and media members love to immediately judge teams on the choices they have made, though judgment is largely based on the individual prospects alone. This isn't a fair form of evaluation because not every team enters draft weekend with the same goals.

    Depending on what stage of construction a team is in—whether rebuilding or chasing a championship—teams set out to draft for different reasons. While every team wants to add Pro Bowl-quality talent, some are looking to plug holes, while others can afford to take the best player available with every selection.

    This is why when a team "reaches" for a player or deviates greatly from a media big board, it isn't always the mistake it is made out to be.

    When the draft classes are complete, teams' expectations will differ as well. Not every team will hope to have the same results out of its rookie class—though "winning more games" is certainly a popular goal.

    Here we'll take a broad look at what each NFL franchise can and should expect to get out of its rookie class in 2020.

2020 NFL Draft Results

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    Before we dig into each team's rookie expectations, here's a look at how all seven rounds of the 2020 draft unfolded. By clicking on the "All Teams" tab, you can switch to your favorite franchise and examine its selections.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Cardinals QB Kyler Murray
    Cardinals QB Kyler MurrayAssociated Press

    Support Kyler Murray with an Improved Defense

    The Arizona Cardinals may have a keeper in quarterback Kyler Murray. The 2019 Offensive Rookie of the Year certainly showed a lot of promise in his inaugural campaign. However, he did struggle with pocket awareness and protection, which led to 48 sacks last season.

    This is where the Cardinals' rookie class comes in.

    Arizona took former Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones in the third round, which should help the protection in front of Murray. However, this was largely a defensive draft, which can support Murray in another way.

    The Cardinals defense ranked last in yards allowed last season, which often led to Murray having/trying to do too much. By drafting players like Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons and Utah defensive tackle Leki Fotu, the Cardinals should be able to take some pressure off of Murray's shoulders.

Atlanta Falcons

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    New Falcons CB A.J. Terrell
    New Falcons CB A.J. TerrellCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Improve the Defense

    The Atlanta Falcons were not a complete dumpster fire defensively in 2019. They ranked 20th in yards allowed and 23rd in scoring. Given the sheer amount of firepower on the other side of the ball, however—which now includes Todd Gurley—improving the defense was unsurprisingly a draft goal.

    Four of Atlanta's six draft picks were used on defenders. The other two were used on a center and a punter.

    Guys like former Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell and former Auburn defensive tackle Marlon Davidson should help bolster the Falcons defense in 2020. At least, that's the expectation. If Atlanta can get more consistent production out of that side of the ball, it will have a good chance of improving on last year's 7-9 record.

Baltimore Ravens

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    New Ravens LB Patrick Queen
    New Ravens LB Patrick QueenDanny Karnik/Associated Press

    Improve the Run Defense

    The 14-2 Baltimore Ravens didn't come into draft weekend with many holes. Therefore, luxury picks like running back J.K. Dobbins and wideout Devin Duvernay were acceptable. However, Baltimore also used three of its first five selections on players who can improve the run defense—and an improved run defense is what Baltimore should be seeking.

    The Ravens weren't terrible against the run in 2019, but they did allow 4.4 yards per carry in the regular season. The couple of times they were dominated—by the Cleveland Browns in Week 4 and by the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs—they were torn apart by the opposing ground game.

    Adding players like former LSU linebacker Patrick Queen, former Texas A&M defensive lineman Justin Madubuike and former Ohio State linebacker Malik Harrison should help Baltimore clamp down on the running game.

Buffalo Bills

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    New Bills pass-rusher A.J. Epenesa
    New Bills pass-rusher A.J. EpenesaCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Provide Complementary Pieces for Another Playoff Run

    The Buffalo Bills already had a playoff-caliber roster in 2019, and they addressed their biggest need by trading for Minnesota Vikings receiver Stefon Diggs. That deal left Buffalo without a first-round selection, but that's OK.

    Buffalo's rookie class should be here to provide complementary pieces.

    The Bills have a talented young team with few spots realistically up for grabs. This means guys like former Iowa pass-rusher A.J. Epenesa and former Central Florida wideout Gabriel Davis will largely be looking to supplement the current roster in rotational roles.

    The one player who may claim a significant role out of the gate is former Utah running back Zack Moss. While second-year man Devin Singletary will remain the lead back, Moss can fill the power back role vacated by offseason departure Frank Gore.

Carolina Panthers

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    New Panthers DT Derrick Brown
    New Panthers DT Derrick BrownCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Forge an Elite Defense

    It's fairly safe to say that the Carolina Panthers are hoping to get a high-end defense out of their draft class. Every one of Carolina's seven selections was spent on a defensive player. This shouldn't come as a major surprise.

    The Panthers ranked 31st in points allowed in 2019.

    Carolina grabbed a dominant interior defensive presence by taking Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown seventh overall. It added a premier pass-rushing prospect to pair with Brian Burns in Penn State's Yetur Gross-Matos and a cornerback who could help replace James Bradberry in Notre Dame's Troy Pride Jr.

    With players like Jeremy Chinn, Kenny Robinson and Stantley Thomas-Oliver also in the mix, the Panthers defense should take a significant step forward.

Chicago Bears

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    New Bears TE Cole Kmet
    New Bears TE Cole KmetMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Provide a Reliable Tight End, Bolster Depth Elsewhere

    The Chicago Bears should not be criticized for taking Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet mere weeks after signing Jimmy Graham in free agency. Graham's best years are behind him, while Kmet can be the long-term answer at tight end.

    The Trey Burton experiment was a bust, and finding a reliable tight end for Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles—depending on who earns the starting job—was one of the biggest goals of Chicago's offseason.

    Looking past Kmet, Chicago needs to get solid depth out of players like Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson and Tulsa edge-rusher Trevis Gipson. The Bears have a roster that is playoff-caliber. Most of their 2020 success will hinge on quarterback play.

Cincinnati Bengals

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    New Bengals QB Joe Burrow
    New Bengals QB Joe BurrowGerald Herbert/Associated Press

    Develop and Support Joe Burrow

    The Cincinnati Bengals used the No. 1 overall selection on former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. The reigning Heisman winner essentially is Cincinnati's draft class. Developing and protecting him is the most important goal of 2020.

    With the release of Andy Dalton, Burrow could be thrust into early action. For him, winning shouldn't be as important as growth. Hopefully, second-round pick and former Clemson receiver Tee Higgins will help in that growth.

    Cincinnati used three of their draft picks on linebackers. Ideally, one or more of them will help improve the team's 32nd-ranked run defense. An improved defense should allow Burrow to play more of a game manager's role. That should be the goal, even if Burrow is considered the most pro-ready quarterback in this draft class.

Cleveland Browns

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    Browns QB Baker Mayfield
    Browns QB Baker MayfieldGary Landers/Associated Press

    Give the Browns a Fair Evaluation of Baker Mayfield

    The Browns don't quite know what they have in quarterback Baker Mayfield. He shined as a rookie, and then wilted in 2019—due in part to poor coaching, awful offensive line play and a defense that often put pressure on him to score.

    Entering his third year, Cleveland must get an accurate idea of what Mayfield can be.

    "I do have a lot of confidence in Baker. But I'm not going to speak it into existence and neither is he," head coach Kevin Stefanski said on ESPN's Golic and Wingo (h/t Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com).

    Cleveland's rookie class has to make life easier on Mayfield in order to provide an assessment of the player himself. The addition of offensive tackle Jedrick Wills should help in the pass-protection department, while players like safety Grant Delpit and defensive tackle Jordan Elliott can help keep the game close and prevent Mayfield from trying to do too much.

Dallas Cowboys

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    New Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb
    New Cowboys WR CeeDee LambMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Push Dallas Toward a Division Title

    The Dallas Cowboys got themselves a lot of value in the 2020 draft by letting players like former Oklahoma wideout CeeDee Lamb and former Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs fall to them. However, the Cowboys need more than value out of this draft class. They need to deliver an NFC East title.

    Dallas parted with former head coach Jason Garrett after the team failed to make the playoffs in 2019. Owner Jerry Jones brought in Mike McCarthy in order to take a win-now approach, and that's exactly what the Cowboys will have to do.

    For the rookie class, value has to turn into wins. That's the challenge. Diggs helps fill the void left by cornerback Byron Jones, while former Wisconsin center Tyler Biadasz can eventually be a long-term replacement for the retired Travis Frederick. However, Lamb was a luxury pick who will now face pressure to immediately improve the win total.

Denver Broncos

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    Broncos QB Drew Lock
    Broncos QB Drew LockDavid Zalubowski/Associated Press

    Help Drew Lock Become a Dangerous Quarterback

    The Denver Broncos might not have their own version of Patrick Mahomes in Drew Lock, but the franchise seems more than happy to have the former Missouri signal-caller under center. The goal now is to transform him from promising youngster into elite defense-shredder.

    The Broncos' first two draft selections—former Alabama wideout Jerry Jeudy and former Penn State receiver K.J. Hamler—should aid in this goal tremendously. With Jeudy and Hamler in the fold, Lock's receiving corps now features a plethora of premier pass-catchers.

    Between Jeudy, Hamler, Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant, Lock should have little trouble pinpointing an open target in most situations. The additions of center Lloyd Cushenberry and tight end Albert Okuwuegbunam only further bolster the talent surrounding Lock.

Detroit Lions

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    New Lions CB Jeff Okudah
    New Lions CB Jeff OkudahCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Improve the Pass Defense

    When the Detroit Lions hired former New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia as head coach, the expectation was that Patricia would bring a powerful defense to Detroit. To date, that simply hasn't happened.

    Detroit actually had the league's worst-ranked pass defense in 2019 in terms of yards allowed. The Lions then traded Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay in the offseason.

    This is why the Lions need to get a better pass defense out of their draft class—and it's not an unrealistic goal. Third overall pick Jeff Okudah was believed to be the most pro-ready cornerback in this class, while third-round pick and former Notre Dame edge-rusher Julian Okwara should help bolster the pass defense from up front.

    Even second-round pick and former Georgia running back D'Andre Swift can help the pass defense by allowing the Lions to play a bit more of a ball-control offense.

Green Bay Packers

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    New Packers QB Jordan Love
    New Packers QB Jordan LoveCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Make Fans Forget About Jordan Love

    The Green Bay Packers made the biggest splash in the 2020 draft by trading up to take Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in Round 1. The move sparked plenty of backlash from the Packers faithful, as perennial Pro Bowler Aaron Rodgers is still in his playing prime—and under contract through 2023.

    Green Bay was undoubtedly planning for its future with the selection of Love. It needs players like former Boston College running back A.J. Dillon and former Cincinnati H-back Josiah Deguara to help fans forget about the future for the time being.

    They're going to do that by helping to win games—and yes, players like Dillon, Deguara and linebacker Kamal Martin can do just that. In a vacuum, these are terrific prospects who can thrive under Matt LaFleur and the Packers coaching staff. They're just not the wide receivers many fans were hoping Green Bay would add to its passing attack.

    If a revamped rushing attack and an improved run defense help take pressure off of Rodgers and deliver more comfortable wins, fans will forget all about their draft-day anxiety.

Houston Texans

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    New Texans DT Ross Blacklock
    New Texans DT Ross BlacklockAJ Mast/Associated Press

    Improve the Pass Defense

    The Houston Texans had a playoff team in 2019, but they didn't have a complete team. Their 29th-ranked pass rush was a liability that kept them a tier below legitimate title contenders. Even though Houston didn't draft a defensive back until Round 4, snagging Penn State's John Reid, an improved pass defense has to be the goal.

    Houston can get an improved pass defense by bolstering its pass rush. While J.J. Watt's injury played a part, the fact that Houston produced just 31 sacks was problematic. Second-round defensive tackle Ross Blacklock and third-round edge-rusher Jonathan Greenard can help put pressure on opposing signal-callers.

    While Reed can add depth to the secondary, Houston should hope to improve its pass defense from the front—with Blacklock, Greenard and, hopefully, a healthy Watt playing major roles.

Indianapolis Colts

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    New Colts QB Philip Rivers
    New Colts QB Philip RiversCharlie Riedel/Associated Press

    Help Tailor the Offense to Philip Rivers

    The Indianapolis Colts signed veteran Philip Rivers to be their quarterback in 2020, and barring injury or an unforeseen emergence from fourth-round rookie Jacob Eason, Rivers is going to be the man.

    The Colts need to use their first two picks in the draft—wideout Michael Pittman Jr. and running back Jonathan Taylor—to help build a Rivers-friendly offense.

    With the Los Angeles Chargers, Rivers was used to having multiple high-end receiving threats out wide and a strong rotational running game. Pairing the 6'4", 223-pound Pittman with speedster T.Y. Hilton will give Rivers two premier options at receiver. Adding Taylor to a backfield that already features Marlon Mack and Nyheim Hines will give Rivers the sort of multifaceted running game he's accustomed to.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Jaguars QB Gardner Minshew
    Jaguars QB Gardner MinshewAssociated Press

    Set Up Gardner Minshew for Success

    The Jacksonville Jaguars traded Nick Foles this offseason, leaving 2019 rookie sensation Gardner Minshew as the presumed starter. The Jaguars need to use their rookie player pool to ensure Minshew has a fair shot at success.

    Jacksonville will largely do so by improving a defense that ranked 21st in scoring and 24th in yardage. Players like former Florida cornerback CJ Henderson and former LSU pass-rusher K'Lavon Chaisson should help strengthen that side of the ball, leaving less pressure on Minshew to play catchup on the scoreboard.

    Jacksonville did get Minshew some offensive help in the form of former Colorado wideout Laviska Shenault Jr. and St. John's offensive tackle Ben Bartch. Shenault should quickly become a premier target opposite DJ Chark Jr., while Bartch can develop into an eventual replacement for left tackle Cam Robinson.

Kansas City Chiefs

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    New Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
    New Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-HelaireAssociated Press

    Get Early Contributions from Early Picks

    The Kansas City Chiefs are defending Super Bowl champions. Naturally, their later draft picks are going to have a difficult time cracking the lineup. Therefore, it's important the Chiefs get contributions out of their first two draft selections—former LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and former Mississippi State linebacker Willie Gay Jr.

    For Edwards-Helaire, the goal will be to add balance to the offense while providing an outlet receiver out of the backfield—essentially, he needs to be a pseudo-replacement for former starter Kareem Hunt. For Gay, the task will be to help upgrade a run defense that ranked 26th in yards allowed last season.

    If the Chiefs can improve their running game and their ability to stop the run, they could be even more formidable than they were a year ago.

Las Vegas Raiders

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    New Raiders CB Damon Arnette
    New Raiders CB Damon ArnetteMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Make the Front Office Look Competent

    The Las Vegas Raiders took plenty of criticism for drafting former Clemson edge-rusher Clelin Ferrell with the fourth overall pick last year. Given his lackluster production in 2019—he had just 4.5 sacks and 38 tackles—the criticism hasn't faded.

    The braintrust of Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock made some more curious decisions in this year's draft. Making Alabama speedster Henry Ruggs III the first wideout off the board wasn't too surprising, but taking Ohio State corner Damon Arnette 19th overall was.

    Bleacher Report draft analyst Matt Miller listed Arnette as his 13th-best cornerback prospect and a third-round talent.

    Taking Kentucky running back Lynn Bowden Jr. in Round 3 was also a surprise with Josh Jacobs and Jalen Richard headlining a productive backfield.

    As mentioned in the opening, teams' draft boards can veer significantly away from the public perception. The Raiders need a rookie class that will justify theirs.

Los Angeles Chargers

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    New Chargers QB Justin Herbert
    New Chargers QB Justin HerbertMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Keep Justin Herbert Off the Field

    Unlike Burrow, former Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert is not a pro-ready quarterback, though he possesses plenty of physical upside. Herbert struggles with some of the fundamentals that will be critical at the next level.

    "He's confident attacking downfield, but touch throws evade him and may have created tentativeness with certain short and intermediate throws," NFL Media's Lance Zierlein wrote. "Ball placement requires additional emphasis, but upgrading to NFL skill talent could help him bloom."

    Herbert needs time to develop, and journeyman quarterback Tyrod Taylor can help provide it. However, the Chargers need their rookie class to put Taylor in a position to succeed.

    Guys like former UCLA running back Joshua Kelley and former Virginia wideout Joe Reed can do that directly, while former Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray can help L.A.'s defense approach elite status.

    With a great defense and a strong running game, Taylor should be a serviceable starter in 2020.

Los Angeles Rams

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    New Rams RB Cam Akers
    New Rams RB Cam AkersMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Replace Departed Veterans

    The Los Angeles Rams largely drafted to replace players who were ousted this offseason. The Rams released running back Todd Gurley and traded wide receiver Brandin Cooks, leaving two massive holes on the offense.

    Los Angeles was left without a first-round pick because of the Jalen Ramsey trade. However, the Rams used their two second-round picks—one acquired in the Cooks deal—on former Florida State running back Cam Akers and former Florida wideout Van Jefferson.

    The Rams drafted to replace other departed players as well.

    In Round 3, the Rams took former Alabama edge-rusher Terrell Lewis, a potential replacement for free-agent departure Dante Fowler Jr. They also took former Utah safety Terrell Burgess in Round 3—a potential replacement for retired safety Eric Weddle.

Miami Dolphins

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    New Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa
    New Dolphins QB Tua TagovailoaRogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Keep Tua Tagovailoa Out of the Starting Lineup

    As is the case with the Chargers and Herbert, the Miami Dolphins should be focused on keeping Tua Tagovailoa out of the starting lineup—albeit for different reasons.

    Mentally and physically, the former Alabama star may be ready for NFL competition. However, he is still recovering from a dislocated and fractured hip suffered in 2019. Rushing Tagovailoa on to the field early could spell disaster.

    Fortunately, Miami has journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to hold down the job for another year. Building a competent team around him should allow Tagovailoa to sit and watch from the sideline.

    Former USC offensive tackle Austin Jackson will theoretically help Fitzpatrick directly. Meanwhile, defensive additions like former Auburn corner Noah Igbinoghene, former Alabama defensive tackle Raekwon Davis and former Texas safety Brandon Jones can help provide a defense that Miami can win with.

Minnesota Vikings

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    New Vikings WR Justin Jefferson
    New Vikings WR Justin JeffersonDanny Karnik/Associated Press

    Replace Offseason Departures

    The Vikings ended up making a whopping 15 draft selections. Seeing as how they already had a playoff-caliber roster, many of the picked prospects are going to be left off the final 53-man roster. This is acceptable because Minnesota's primary goal should be replacing lost players.

    The Vikings traded Diggs and parted with cornerbacks Trae Waynes, Xavier Rhodes and Mackensie Alexander. They drafted former LSU receiver Justin Jefferson in Round 1 and took three cornerbacks in the draft.

    Former TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney was also a first-round selection.

    While it would be nice to get some surprise production out of a player like former South Carolina pass-rusher D.J. Wonnum, replacing Diggs and rebuilding the secondary is what Minnesota should hope to accomplish.

New England Patriots

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    New Patriots S Kyle Dugger
    New Patriots S Kyle DuggerCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Build an Elite Defense

    The Patriots fielded the league's top-ranked defense in 2019—both in terms of scoring and yardage. However, with Tom Brady out and no established starter on the roster, the Patriots need an even more dominant defense if they hope to be playoff contenders.

    This is why New England used its first three draft selections on defensive prospects—former Lenoir-Rhyne safety Kyle Dugger, former Michigan edge-rusher Josh Uche and former Alabama linebacker Anfernee Jennings. 

    New England did add a pair of tight ends in UCLA's Devin Asiasi and Virginia Tech's Dalton Keene, and they should help fill a gaping hole on the offense. However, the Patriots are going to be a defensive team in 2020, for better or worse. The rookie class has to help make winning with defense possible.

New Orleans Saints

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    New Saints OL Cesar Ruiz
    New Saints OL Cesar RuizMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Make One Last Run at the Super Bowl

    New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has agreed to join NBC as a commentator whenever his playing career is finished. With that job looming, there's a very real chance that 2020 marks Brees' last hurrah. 

    Therefore, the Saints need to maximize what could be their last Super Bowl push with Brees under center. With few holes on the roster, New Orleans largely focused on players who can help do exactly that on a rotational/backup basis.

    The Saints packaged many of their late-round selections, finishing with just four draft picks. They took a developmental quarterback in Mississippi State's Tommy Stevens in Round 7. Their first three picks were used on former Michigan interior lineman Cesar Ruiz, former Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun and former Dayton tight end Adam Trautman.

New York Giants

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    New Giants OT Andrew Thomas
    New Giants OT Andrew ThomasCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Improve the Offensive Line

    The New York Giants may have found their franchise quarterback in former Duke standout Daniel Jones. However, protecting Jones was a concern heading into the draft. New York allowed 43 sacks in 2019, and Jones had a bit of a fumbling problem when under pressure. He coughed the ball up 18 times in 13 games, with 11 fumbles resulting in turnovers. 

    This is why improving the line in front of Jones is the single biggest priority for the Giants. Yes, defenders like Xavier McKinney and Darnay Holmes can have an early impact. However, New York has to get an upgrade at left tackle in fourth overall pick Andrew Thomas.

    2019 starter Nate Solder allowed 11 sacks last season, according to Pro Football Focus.

    Third-round pick Matt Pearl can also play a role in improving the line, but Thomas is the most important draft selection New York has had since taking Jones sixth overall last year.

New York Jets

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    Jets QB Sam Darnold
    Jets QB Sam DarnoldDavid Dermer/Associated Press

    Give Sam Darnold a Chance to Shine

    The New York Jets got some good defensive value in Day 2 picks Ashtyn Davis and Jabari Zuniga, but this draft is all about setting up Sam Darnold for success. The former USC signal-caller has flashed promise as a pro but has not yet developed into a reliable NFL quarterback.

    Much of the fault rests on the Jets organization for failing to surround Darnold with adequate talent. Ideally, that won't be an issue in 2020.

    The Jets used their first pick (11th overall) on former Louisville offensive tackle Mekhi Becton. While Becton isn't a polished pass protector, he has the physical upside needed to develop into a star blindside blocker. In Round 2, the Jets took former Baylor wideout Denzel Mims, a prospect with NFL No. 1 receiver traits.

    By giving Darnold a legitimate No. 1 target and a potential Pro Bowl left tackle, New York has placed the onus on Darnold to prove himself.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    New Eagles WR Jalen Reagor
    New Eagles WR Jalen ReagorMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Get an Immediate Impact Out of The 2 Jalens

    The Philadelphia Eagles shocked more than a few fans by using their first two selections on TCU wideout Jalen Reagor and Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. Reagor wasn't one of the most prolific receiver prospects entering the draft, and Hurts is, well, a quarterback.

    The Eagles already have a Pro Bowler under center in Carson Wentz.

    "While Philly's decision to take Reagor over Jefferson raised a few eyebrows, the Eagles' second-round pick left mouths agape across the country. Is No. 53 overall really the place to draft a backup quarterback who needs development as a thrower?" NFL Media's Gennaro Filice wrote.

    The reality is that both Reagor and Hurts can make an immediate impact—Reagor as a deep-threat receiver and Hurts as a package/gimmick player in the Taysom Hill mold. The Eagles need them to if they hope to repeat as division champions.

Pittsburgh Steelers

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    New Steelers WR Chase Claypool
    New Steelers WR Chase ClaypoolMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Improve the Offense

    Playing defense wasn't an issue for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2019. They finished the year ranked fifth in both points allowed and yardage allowed, despite getting next to nothing out of the offense.

    This is why improving the offense was Pittsburgh's main draft objective. The presumed return of a healthy Ben Roethlisberger will certainly help, but the Steelers aren't leaving anything to chance. They used three of their first four draft picks on offensive players—former Notre Dame wideout Chase Claypool, former Maryland running back Anthony McFarland Jr. and former Louisiana interior lineman Kevin Dotson.

    Prospects like edge-rusher Alex Highsmith and safety Antoine Brooks Jr. can find roles on defense, but that side of the ball is already playoff-caliber. Pittsburgh needs its offense to catch up.

San Francisco 49ers

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    New 49ers DT Javon Kinlaw
    New 49ers DT Javon KinlawSean Rayford/Associated Press

    Replace Departed Veterans

    The San Francisco 49ers had a Super Bowl-caliber roster last season but lost a few key pieces in the offseason. San Francisco traded defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, lost wideout Emmanuel Sanders in free agency and lost left tackle Joe Staley to retirement.

    This draft class is all about adding replacements.

    First-round selections Javon Kinlaw and Brandon Aiyuk should help replace Buckner and Sanders, respectively. While San Francisco did trade for Trent Williams, former West Virginia tackle Colton McKivitz has the potential to develop into a long-term swing tackle for the offense.

    If the 49ers can use their rookies to maintain a championship-caliber roster, this draft will be a roaring success.

Seattle Seahawks

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    New Seahawks edge-rusher Darrell Taylor
    New Seahawks edge-rusher Darrell TaylorAssociated Press

    Improve the Pass Rush

    The Seattle Seahawks were a playoff team in 2019, but they had one glaring weakness. Their pass rush was largely invisible outside of a few games—it dominated during the team's regular-season win against the 49ers—and produced just 28 sacks in total.

    The pass rush needs to improve this season if Seattle hopes to be a legitimate title contender. With 2019 edge-defenders Ziggy Ansah and Jadeveon Clowney both still unsigned, Seattle needs its rookie class to have a pass-rushing impact.

    First-round pick and former Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks can generate the occasional pressure—he had 6.0 sacks over the past two seasons—but second-round pick and former Tennessee pass-rusher Darrell Taylor could have an even bigger impact. Seattle took former Syracuse pass-rusher Alton Robinson in Round 5, and he could be a pass-rushing sleeper in 2020.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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    New  Buccaneers QB Tom Brady
    New Buccaneers QB Tom BradyCharles Krupa/Associated Press

    Keep Tom Brady Upright

    The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made one of the biggest moves of the offseason by acquiring six-time champ Tom Brady. However, Brady will turn 43 in August and isn't going to provide a lengthy Super Bowl window.

    To take advantage of that window, the Buccaneers have to keep Brady healthy and on the field. Their rookie draft class can help do that.

    Trading up for former Iowa right tackle Tristan Wirfs was a brilliant move that should pay immediate dividends. Adding former Vanderbilt running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn should help take some pressure off of Brady, while former Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Jr. can help keep Brady out of shootout situations.

    Switching to a new team and a new system won't be easy for Brady, but Tampa's rookie class can help make the transition go a little more smoothly.

Tennessee Titans

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    New Titans CB Kristian Fulton
    New Titans CB Kristian FultonMichael Conroy/Associated Press

    Replace Offseason Departures

    The Tennessee Titans had a roster that was good enough to reach the AFC title game in 2019. However, a few key pieces left in free agency, and the Titans appear to have drafted to replace them.

    Right tackle Jack Conklin is gone, but the team picked up first-round pick and former Georgia tackle Isaiah Wilson. Cornerback Logan Ryan remains unsigned, but the Titans used a second-round pick on former LSU corner Kristian Fulton.

    The Titans parted with Deion Lewis. They drafted former Appalachian State running back Darrynton Evans. Cameron Wake is out, while former N.C. State edge-rusher Larrell Murchison is in. Starter-turned-backup Marcus Mariota is now in Las Vegas. Former Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald is now in Tennessee.

    While the Titans cannot expect a one-for-one replacement at every position, they should hope to keep the overall talent level on par with that of 2019.

Washington Redskins

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    Washington QB Dwayne Haskins
    Washington QB Dwayne HaskinsPatrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Support a Young Quarterback

    The Washington Redskins have not ruled out the possibility of signing veteran Cam Newton.

    "I'm not sure I would do it. I'm not sure if I wouldn't do it. It depends on circumstances," head coach Ron Rivera said on Good Morning Football.

    However, it appears that Washington will roll with either Dwayne Haskins or Kyle Allen at quarterback this season. Both are relatively inexperienced signal-callers, and Washington's rookie class should be there to make life easier on whomever earns the job.

    Pass-rusher Chase Young can help limit opposing scoring. Running back Antonio Gibson can help carry the offense. Offensive tackle Saahdiq Charles can help keep a quarterback upright, and wideout Antonio Gandy-Golden can help bolster the receiving corps.

    Haskins struggled through most of his 2019 campaign, in part because Washington lacked the proper supporting cast. Haskins wasn't allowed to simply manage the game. Ideally, this rookie class will change that.


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