It’s time to take a look at the NFL Draft winners and losers from the 2020 draft. The most-watched draft in NFL history brought us into NFL coaches’ homes up close and personal. After seeing Kliff Kingsbury’s house, more than a few of us wondered why we didn’t consider football coaching as a profession. But we won’t be rating houses here. Rather we’ll be evaluating the NFL teams’ drafts — both the good and the bad.
To make this assessment, we’ll consider each team’s needs, the players they went after, and what round they drafted. Selecting players in the draft – especially quarterbacks – is always a bit of a crapshoot. Sure, there are some clear-cut can’t-misses. But, when you think you know who those are, a Tony Mandarich-like decision presents itself. A surefire winner turns into a draft bust. So, evaluating drafts is not a science but rather an art.
Winners and Losers of the NFL Draft 2020
Any event that makes dozens of people instant millionaires is sure to be a spectacle of sorts. The NFL draft is full of tradition, spectacle, and storylines. With a quarantined fan base hungry for sports, the NFL draft came at a much-needed time. Let’s take a look at which teams took advantage of it and which didn’t.
2020 NFL Draft Winners
Baltimore Ravens, Grade: A
The team with the most awarded compensatory picks since 1996 continues to keep rolling along. The Ravens continue to show why they have one of the top front offices in the NFL. Baltimore General Manager Eric DeCosta hit a home run on all levels with this draft. He places the Ravens right back at the top of Super Bowl contention. The top needs coming into the draft were ILB, WR, G/C, and they left with a player filling each position.
They addressed linebacker with the first pick from LSU in Patrick Quenn (as Lamar Jackson calls him, “Ray Lewis Jr.”).
Then, they added another skilled run defender in Ohio states, Malik Harrison. Queen is extremely athletic and rangy, and Harrison is a solid tackler, with both contributing right away. At wide receiver, the Ravens added Devin Duvernay. He is one of the strongest and best run-after-the-catch receivers who perfectly fits the Ravens’ physical playstyle.
The Ravens attempted to sign run-stuffing defensive end Michael Brockers in free agency but fell through after a failed physical, so they get a great replacement for him in Texas A&M’s Justin Madubuike. Ben Bredeson fills in for the just-retired Marshal Yanda and is a good run-blocking guard. Speaking of the Ravens’ run game, they also were able to add a complementary back in JK Dobbins.
Dobbins fits their physical downhill running game and arrives with incredible production. He broke Eddie George’s single-season Ohio State rushing record. The Ravens are a much better football team after the last three days.
Minnesota Vikings, Grade: A-
After exiting the draft with a total of 15 picks, it seems obvious to put the Vikings as a draft winner. They added too many solid players who can immediately be thrust into the starting lineup to leave them off. After losing Stefon Diggs, Trae Waynes, and Xavier Rhodes, the Vikings found day-one replacements for all three positions. Justin Jefferson is one of the best route runners in the class and will fill the role Diggs left behind.
Jeff Gladney and Cameron Dantzler round out the secondary and bring a good size-speed combination. Gladney is a smaller ultra-competitive corner who battles until the echo of the whistle. Dantzler brings a bigger frame with the ability to match up with stronger receivers. Ezra Cleveland is one of the most athletic offensive tackles in the draft. He is an excellent fit for the Vikings’ run-heavy zone scheme with Dalvin Cook. Not to mention offensive line seems to be a weakness year after year.
After losing Everson Griffen and Linval Joseph in the offseason, the Vikes needed to add more size along the defensive line. Insert James Lynch, Baylor’s single-season and all-time leader in sacks. He brings great character and locker room fit. Zimmer also gets himself another rangy linebacker in Troy Dye, who can play the will linebacker position and add depth behind Barr and Kendricks. The only thing holding back an A grade is that there will be a good chunk of these players who will not make the roster because of the number of draft picks.
Carolina Panthers, Grade: B+
After spending heavily on the offensive side of the ball, signing Teddy Bridgewater and Robby Anderson, and extending McCaffrey to a record-setting deal, the Panthers still had a long way to go to fix their defense. So, what is the best way to do that? Use each pick on defense. Matt Rhule’s first draft consisted of seven total picks. Each one was spent trying to solve the many holes in the panther’s defense.
They started with the do-it defensive tackle Derrick Brown, a refrigerator with the feet of a ballerina. He was possibly the third-best overall prospect and will be a factor for years to come. They were then able to add a freak athlete as a defensive linemate with high potential in Yetur Gross-Matos out of Penn State.
Pairing him with Brian Burns gives this defense one of the fastest and lengthiest pairs of edge rushers in the league. They were then able to address the secondary by adding two safeties and corners. These are potential replacements for Eric Reid and James Bradbury. The Panthers are clearly in a rebuild in Matt Rhule’s first year. But this was a fantastic start to the transition period.
ClevelandBrowns, Grade: B+
It was apparent the Browns had to improve upon their terrible offensive line play from last year. If Cleveland wants to have any shot of making the big jump, this was a weakness. They were fortunate to have possibly the best pass-protecting tackle in the draft fall to them at pick 10 in Jedrick Wills Jr. Wills is one of many in a long line of Alabama tackles who are plug-and-play. Just set it and forget it type of players are rare. He will instantly upgrade the play at offensive tackle.
With the next three picks, the Browns dove heavily into the SEC pool with Grant Delpit, Jordan Elliot, and Delpit’s teammate at LSU, Jacob Philips. Delpit has a great range stemming from his lanky 6-2 frame. He covers loads of ground in a hurry. He also played a variety of roles at LSU and can do many things asked of him.
Jordan Elliot has a great first step along with the interior of the defensive line and can be a force with properly coached technique and hand usage. Not many guys his size can move the way he does. Elliot was not as highly touted as his teammate Patrick Queen but still led the national champion Tigers in tackles this past season. He is not the most athletic player but is very sound in his play and a guy you can count on in the middle of the defense.
They were also to add another interesting piece to the tight end room in Harrison Bryant. Bryant is on the smaller side of the spectrum but will give you 100% of every play out there. Bryant and newly acquired Austin Hooper signed a tight-end record contract to give the Browns a much different look. Along with Baker Mayfield, they could put the Browns in the playoffs this season.
2020 NFL Draft Losers
Green Bay Packers, Grade: C – NFL Draft Winners and Losers
Being a lifelong cheesehead, it is very tough to place the Packers into the loser category. But, after the multitude of questionable decisions made over the last three days, I have no choice but to put them in the appropriate place. We will start with the obvious head-scratcher made in the first round by selecting Aaron Rodgers heir- apparent in Utah State QB Jordan Love.
Not only did the Pack draft Rodgers’ replacement with four years remaining on an expensive contract, but they also sent a fourth-round pick in a trade-up to secure him. For a team with a 13-3 record and one game away from the Super Bowl, it would have made sense to get a player that can make an immediate impact.
This selection created two big questions. First, can Jordan Love follow in the huge footsteps of Starr, Favre, and Rodgers? And, maybe just as important in the short-term, what does Mr. Rodgers think of his competitive neighborhood? With the Packers putting together a nice season last year, the timing is odd for a QB pick. But if Love has the goods, it may be considered another draft steal by the Packers.
Running Backs Plus
Next, they chose power with the highly productive Boston College running back AJ Dillon. Dillon was a three-time all-ACC selection and one of the most decorated running backs in school history. Next, they spent a top 100 pick in Josiah Deguara, who will most likely be featured in an h-back/fullback-type role. So, the Packers added depth to arguably their two strongest positions. Aaron and Aaron got the job done last year. Should the picks have addressed weaknesses instead?
In the 6th round of the draft, they selected three offensive linemen to help bolster the interior for the future.
With the last pick, the Packers drafted Jonathan Garvin. The Packers have now drafted a defensive lineman in every draft dating back to 1985. This was hyped to be one of the deepest wide receiver classes in history. That position also happens to be a glaring weakness on the Packer roster. And yet, a full draft went by without general manager Brian Gutekunst selecting a pass-catching threat.
This draft seems much more focused on the long term than filling an immediate need. Both GM and head coach will be directly tied to this draft for their remaining tenure in Green Bay.
Seattle Seahawks, Grade: C – NFL Draft Winners and Losers
The Seahawks have a long history of successful drafts, but this most recent one seems to have some interesting choices. Jordyn Brooks was a late riser-up on draft boards. However, taking him with the 27th overall selection seems early. Brooks is a downhill, aggressive run-stuffer who struggles in coverage and out in space with tight ends and running backs.
After signing Greg Olsen in the offseason, the Seahawks already have three starting tight ends, with Jacob Hollister and Will Dissly rounding out the depth chart. This did not stop them from drafting another two tight ends. Perhaps trying to add a third wide receiver to help DK Metcalf and Tyler Locket would have been a better direction.
Year after year, it seems Russell Wilson is running for his life. He was tied for the most sacked quarterback in the league last year with 48. Adding 3rd-round guard Damien Lewis is a step in the right direction. Yet, it would have been nice to see a larger commitment to keeping Wilson upright and making plays. The Seahawks are consistently one of the best teams at turning late-round picks into quality players. Like previous years, they certainly made some intriguing decisions.
Denver Broncos, Grade C+ – NFL Draft Winners and Losers
John Elway is going all-in on 2nd-year quarterback drew lock and gives him every possible playmaker to succeed. Being able to stay at pick 15 and land Jerry Jeudy, one of the best route runners to enter the draft in the past decade, is a sensational pick. Pairing him with Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant instantly gives drew lock weapons galore with size and speed located all over.
With the 2nd pick, they added another threat in speedster KJ Hamler from Penn State. Hamler is lightning in a bottle and can score from any part of the field. They continued to add playmakers in the later rounds by selecting Tyrie Cleveland and locks college teammate Albert Okwuegbunam. They could add a center and guard in the third and sixth rounds, respectively, but it would have been nice to see the broncos give him some more protection upfront to have a clean pocket.
These moves are reminiscent of the BBrowns’transactions the last offseason when adding multiple receiver threats and failing to address the issues along the line at offensive tackle. The browns were fortunate to start tackling this year’s draft, but that cannot guarantee the same fate for the broncos. However, the offense will instantly be upgraded, and Lock will have plenty of new toys to play with. The organization is placing a lot of faith in him, and it is his time to step up and shine.
What’s Next for the NFL?
With far more time than Major League Baseball had to consider options, what will the NFL do regarding playing games in this social distancing world? That’s the big question. If the NFL draft is any indication, fans will appreciate an effort to get games playing, even if just on TV. What steps will be taken to ensure players, coaches, referees, and others’ safety?
There are a lot of questions that will need to be addressed. Hopefully, the planning that’s going on now will address the long list of issues. As a boost to their planning confidence, NFL management must feel good about the success of this draft event.
By Max Ebert with Mike O’Halloran
Max is a diehard Green Bay Packers and NFL fan. Mike is the editor of Sports Feel Good Stories.
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