Even though it couldn’t take place in Las Vegas and had to be done remotely, it’s safe to say that the 2020 NFL Draft went smoothly. However, that doesn’t mean each team performed at the same level. Obviously, every team feels great about their draft class, and it’s true that we can’t be certain about how these prospects pan out. Yet, there’s no reason to not grade their process, as building through the draft is essentially for long-term team building. Today, we’ll go over the draft classes of each NFC team, looking at their performance on the first, second, and third day, as well as undrafted free agency, before assigning them with a final grade.
Round 1, Pick 8: Playmaker Isaiah Simmons, Clemson (A+)
Round 3, Pick 72: OT Josh Jones, Houston (A+)
Round 4, Pick 113: IDL Leki Fotu, Utah (C+)
Round 4, Pick 131: IDL Rashard Lawrence, LSU (C+)
Round 6, Pick 202: LB Evan Weaver, California (C+)
Round 7, Pick 222: RB Eno Benjamin, Arizona State (A-)
Heading into the draft, it was expected that the Cardinals would draft an offensive tackle, but I really wanted them to either trade down or select a player that would improve their long-term pass coverage. Luckily for them, they were essentially gifted Isaiah Simmons, who was the top non-quarterback in this draft, as he’s a playmaker who can contribute in any way. Not only can he shut down the middle of the field, which is important for a team that couldn’t cover tight ends last season, but he’s someone you can build your defense around, and we’ll have to hope that defensive coordinator Vance Joseph uses him properly.
The only pushback from the Simmons pick by some was that Kyler Murray wouldn’t get a offensive tackle to protect him, yet Arizona once again was able to luck into a premier player. Houston’s Josh Jones is a better overall prospect at the moment than Mekhi Becton, and his agility matches really well with this offense- he’ll be an instant starter at right tackle, and was an incredible pick in terms of value.
After two elite picks, Arizona didn’t excite as much on day three, taking multiple mediocre interior defenders and an unathletic linebacker; none will make much of an impact. However, I do like their selection of Eno Benjamin in the seventh round, as his pass-catching ability and playmaking ability in the open field are perfect for this spread-out offense.
The Cardinals signed a multitude of undrafted free agents, which was a good idea considering that they only had six picks in this draft.
OVERALL GRADE: A
This is pretty much a draft centered around two players, but one can make a case than Simmons and Jones were the top steals of the entire draft. Arizona somehow was able to use their first three picks on a generational defensive game changer, a starting tackle, and arguably the best receiver in the NFL in D’Andre Hopkins (doesn’t factor into grade). Simply put, there should be an incredible amount of buzz and optimism surrounding this franchise.
Round 1, Pick 16: CB AJ Terrell, Clemson (B+)
Round 2, Pick 47: IDL Marlon Davidson, Auburn (C)
Round 3, Pick 78: IOL Matt Hennessy, Temple (A-)
Round 4, Pick 119: LB Mychal Walker, Fresno State (C)
Round 4, Pick 134: S Jaylinn Hawkins, California (D+)
Round 7, Pick 228: P Sterling Hofrichter, Syracuse (C+)
The Falcons were expected to trade up in the draft for an elite defensive player, but instead stood pat with the 16th overall pick. However, they still faced a dilemma that they didn’t expect to find themselves in- take the best player available or draft for need? Don’t get me wrong, AJ Terrell is an athletic cornerback with tons of potential in man coverage, so he’ll fit into their scheme really well. Yet, with how deep of a cornerback class this is, why not fortify your offense by taking receiver CeeDee Lamb? You’re not going to fix your defense with one pick, but what you can do by taking Lamb is make sure you have one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. It’s clear that Atlanta didn’t rightfully adjust their boards for who was available, and stuck with their plan- it’s not a bad pick, but they didn’t play the draft correctly.
With all of the main cornerbacks available, I expected the Falcons to double-up at cornerback, which would make picking Terrell over Lamb a more logical decision. However, Atlanta went to the trenches with each of their day-two picks, starting off with Marlon Davidson in the second round. The Auburn product has some intriguing tools, but he’s a complete projection as an interior defender after playing edge rusher in college, and is a rotation interior pass rusher more valuable than a potential #2 corner? That’s not even a question, in my eyes. I did, though, like the Falcons’ selection of Matt Hennessy in the third round, as he’s an athletic, well-rounded player than can be the long-term replacement for center Alex Mack.
Simply put, I’m not sure what Atlanta accomplished on the final day of the draft. Mychal Walker and Jaylinn Hawkins were borderline players in terms of being drafted, not players who they should’ve drafted in the fourth round over more talented players. If they wanted to select a complete project defensively who is more of a special teams player, they could’ve done so in the seventh round instead of drafting a punter.
With no fifth or sixth-round pick, it’s not surprising the Falcons signed a lot of undrafted free agents. The most notable would be Vanderbilt tight end Jared Pinkney, who was once seen as a potential first-round pick, but athleticism concerns and a complete lack of production prevented that from happening.
OVERALL GRADE: B
You’re not supposed to draft for need, yet that’s exactly what the Falcons did. Had they taken Lamb, they would’ve been able to play this draft out perfectly, but instead, they didn’t do enough to improve the roster’s long-term health. Terrell and Hennessy were important picks, yet between their fourth-round picks and the selection of Davidson, I can’t help but me slightly underwhelmed by what Atlanta came away with.
Round 1, Pick 7: IDL Derrick Brown, Auburn (D-)
Round 2, Pick 38: EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos, Penn State (C)
Round 2, Pick 64: S Jeremy Chinn, Southern Illinois (C+)
Round 4, Pick 113: CB Troy Pride Jr., Notre Dame (A)
Round 5, Pick 152: S Kenny Robinson, West Virginia (A+)
Round 6, Pick 184: IDL Bravvion Roy, Baylor (C)
Round 7, Pick 221: CB Stantley Thomas-Oliver, FIU (B)
With the seventh overall pick, the Panthers had three realistic options, in my opinion. They could select the best player available in defensive playmaker Isaiah Simmons, could’ve bolstered the offense further with a receiver or tackle, or they could’ve traded down. Instead, the new regime decided to play it as safe as possible, selecting Auburn interior defender Derrick Brown. Brown is a great run stopper, but he doesn’t make enough impact as a pass rusher to be worthy of such a high pick. Simply put, he plays such a non-valuable position and has such a replaceable skillset, that there’s almost no way he justifies this selection, even if he indeed is an All-Pro talent. When you’re a rebuilding team, improving in the defensive trenches aren’t going to make a difference.
Carolina slightly altered their strategy on the second day of the draft, bringing in a pair of athletic, high-potential players in edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos and versatile safety Jeremy Chinn. The pay-off for both are there, but both have their issues; Gross-Matos didn’t produce at all in college, and Chinn didn’t dominate against inferior competition at Southern Illinois. I’m not against the idea of brining in boom-or-bust types of players, but they also passed on superior prospects at valuable positions, which isn’t ideal.
My favorite two picks of Carolina’s draft came in the fourth and fifth rounds, as they added two intriguing defensive backs; cornerback Troy Pride is an athletic player with a lot of upside in man coverage, while Kenny Robinson may have been a first round talent if not for him leaving West Virginia and playing in the XFL. Outside of that, they continued to fortify their run defense with Bravvion Roy and brought in a lengthy and athletic cornerback in Stantley Thomas-Oliver.
The Panthers didn’t make any notable signings during undrafted free agency, which is surprising considering head coach Matt Rhule coached for or against some of these players at Baylor.
OVERALL GRADE: C
The Panthers made a few nice selections in the later rounds, but they had a chance to come away of this draft with some high-impact players to jumpstart their rebuild, and they failed to do so. Many are applauding their draft, and I’m okay with them committing to improving their defense. However, how they did so was wrong, and I’m confused by their overall direction.
Round 2, Pick 43: TE Cole Kmet, Notre Dame (C-)
Round 2, Pick 50: CB Jaylon Johnson, Utah (A)
Round 5, Pick 155: EDGE Trevis Gipson, Tulsa (A-)
Round 5, Pick 163: CB Kindle Vildor, Georgia Southern (A)
Round 5, Pick 173: WR Darnell Mooney, Tulane (A-)
Round 7, Pick 226: IOL Arlington Hambright, Colorado (B)
Round 7, Pick 227: IOL Lachavious Simmons, Tennessee State (C+)
This is the second straight draft where the Bears don’t have a first-round pick due to the Khalil Mack trade. Although it looked like a good deal at the start, their commitment to one star player did not work out, and the process behind it wasn’t sound.
With only two picks in the first two rounds, the Bears had a chance to build a dominant secondary by selecting a safety and a cornerback. They got halfway there, as Utah’s Jaylon Johnson is a scheme-diverse, instinctual cornerback who’ll undoubtedly start for them right away and form a nice pairing with Kyle Fuller. Yet, rather than select a high-end safety prospect like Grant Delpit or Antoine Winfield Jr., or an offensive tackle like Josh Jones, Chicago felt the need to continue to invest resources into the tight end position. With Jimmy Graham and Adam Shaheen on the roster, the Bears don’t have a high-quality tight end, but Cole Kmet isn’t going to change that. He’s a solid player, but doesn’t create much by himself, and needs to be schemed open like Kyle Rudolph and Austin Hooper. He’s not going to move the needle, yet in predictable fashion, the Bears saw an opportunity to add another tight end in one of the weakest draft classes at that position.
General manager Ryan Pace is often very aggressive with trades, and he continued that trend in the fifth round. However, the three players he selected all are great values. Trevis Gipson was productive in college, and with more development, he can be a solid pass rusher, while Kindle Vildor is a playmaking cornerback, and Darnell Mooney is an absolute burner. They pretty much make up the rest of their haul, outside of some depth offensive lineman, but all of them could play a role for the Bears in the future.
The Bears didn’t make any notable undrafted free agent signings.
OVERALL GRADE: B+
Overall, this was a pretty sound draft for the Bears, but Ryan Pace didn’t do enough to earn an “A”. The selection of Kmet was a misuse of resources, and as a result, the secondary and offensive line didn’t get the injection of young talent those two units needed. Their late-round picks were solid value, and Johnson was a fantastic selection, but they didn’t do quite enough for me to feel good about their future.
Round 1, Pick 17: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma (A+)
Round 2, Pick 51: CB Trevon Diggs, Alabama (A+)
Round 3, Pick 82: IDL Neville Gallimore, Oklahoma (B+)
Round 4, Pick 123: CB Reggie Robinson II, Tulsa (B)
Round 4, Pick 146: IOL Tyler Biadasz, Wisconsin (A+)
Round 5, Pick 179: EDGE Bradlee Anae, Utah (A)
Round 7, Pick 231: QB Ben DiNucci, James Madison (B-)
The Cowboys were in a similar position to the Falcons, as they had to decide between drafting for need and taking the best player available. Unlike Atlanta, however, the Cowboys stopped the slide of CeeDee Lamb, which was brilliant. The receiver trio of Amari Cooper, Lamb, and Michael Gallup may be the best in the NFL, and with a solid offensive line and a mid-tier quarterback in Dak Prescott, they’ll have one of the elite offenses in the NFL. It’s rare for a team to draft the best player available and come to regret it, and I bet that Dallas is going to look back on this decision in a year and will be so grateful they didn’t pigeon-hole themselves into a cornerback or edge rusher.
Perhaps as an omen for them not drafting for need, Dallas was able to fill their major hole in the secondary with a first-round caliber cornerback. Trevon Diggs wasn’t for everyone, but his ball skills, length, and zone coverage ability is off the charts, and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t have been drafted in the first round. Additionally, the Cowboys signed Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe to shore up the interior of their defensive line in the short-term, so adding a young nose tackle in Neville Gallimore, who has an explosive get-off but needs time to develop, makes a lot of sense.
If the selection of Diggs didn’t make it clear that the Cowboys were going to play a zone-heavy cover-three scheme, the selection of Reggie Robinson II should. He’s a lengthy press-man cornerback with a lot of potential, and is a developmental piece for them. Considering Chidobe Awuzie and Jourdan Lewis are free agents at the end of the year, that’s an important addition for them. However, it was their next two picks that really capped off an “A+” draft. With Travis Frederick retiring, Dallas had a hole in the middle of their offensive line, but they were able to snag their new starting center, Tyler Biadasz, in the fourth round. Heck, even edge rusher Bradlee Anae, selected with the last pick in the fifth round, could fill a need for them as the #2 edge rusher outside of Demarcus Lawrence. Those selections were so fantastic that I’ll even give them a pass for selecting quarterback Ben DiNucci over better backup quarterback options.
Jerry Jones wasn’t done adding intriguing rookies; the Cowboys signed some nice undrafted free agents. Linebacker Francis Bernard has some skills in coverage, tight end Sean McKeon is a solid #2 tight end option, running back Darius Anderson has some big-play ability, and they also signed more players who easily could’ve been drafted.
OVERALL GRADE: A+
If you moved up the Cowboys’ picks to an earlier round, and took out the Lamb pick, this draft may still have been worthy of an “A”. The fact that they were able to fill all of their short-term and long-term needs, while taking a “best player available” approach, is fantastic, and this may be Jerry Jones’ most impressive draft. Indeed, if you mocked them these players before the draft, it would’ve been labeled as very unrealistic. Yet, somehow, Dallas managed to draft all of these exciting prospects, and they’ve set themselves up perfectly for the future.
Round 1, Pick 3: CB Jeffrey Okudah, Ohio State (A+)
Round 2, Pick 35: RB D’Andre Swift, Georgia (D-)
Round 3, Pick 67: EDGE Julian Okwara, Notre Dame (A-)
Round 3, Pick 75: IOL Jonah Jackson, Ohio State (B+)
Round 4, Pick 121: IOL Logan Stenberg, Kentucky (A-)
Round 5, Pick 166: WR Quintez Cephus, Wisconsin (A-)
Round 5, Pick 172: RB Jason Huntley, New Mexico (C+)
Round 6, Pick 197: IDL John Penisini, Utah (A-)
Round 7, Pick 235: IDL Jashon Cornell, Ohio State (B)
In an ideal world, the Lions would’ve been able to trade down from the #3 spot. However, no trade offers materialized, so Detroit took the player that’s going to make the biggest difference for them. Even before trading Darius Slay, they had a massive long-term need at the cornerback position, especially since Matt Patricia’s man-heavy defensive scheme puts such an emphasis on that position. With his athleticism, length, and elite technique, Jeffrey Okudah is as sound of a press-man corner as there is, and the Lions should be thrilled that they were in position to land him. One could argue that Isaiah Simmons is the better overall prospect, but when you consider how much pressure Patricia puts on his cornerbacks by running man coverage and not blitzing, Okudah was the easy pick for them.
I was excited to see how the Lions would build off the selection of Okudah with the 35th overall pick, but unfortunately, they made arguably the worst move they could make. D’Andre Swift may have been the top running back in this draft, but the value of selecting a running back isn’t at the top of the second round, especially since Detroit has a starting running back in Kerryon Johnson. With receivers, safeties, and pass rushers on the board, this definitely wasn’t the route to go. On the bright side, their third-round picks fit perfectly with what they’re trying to accomplish. Of all the “high upside”edge rushers, Julian Okwara was the most productive in college, and with his athletic tools, he’ll play an important role as a edge rusher/linebacker hybrid in the Kyle Van Noy mold. Also, they desperately needed help on the interior of the offensive line, and Jonah Jackson may have been the most refined pass protecting guard in this draft.
Detroit was able to pick up an extra fifth-round pick after trading down with the Raiders, yet still landed the finishing piece to their offensive line in Logan Stenberg, who is a powerful player with a nasty demeanor- he and Jackson will start for them immediately. Additionally, receiver Quintez Cephus could challenge for reps in the slot immediately, and could be Marvin Jones’ long-term replacement, while John Penisini and Jason Cornell shore up the interior of their defensive line at a cheap price. Ironically, the only questionable pick they made on the third day of the draft was once again at the running back position, as I like Jason Huntley’s skills as a “scat back”, but he feels redundant after selecting Swift.
The Lions were able to come away with the prize of the undrafted free agency class, signing tight end Hunter Bryant. A very similar player to Evan Engram with his potential as a mismatch weapon, it appears he fell due to some medical issue, but he was a consensus top-five tight end heading into the draft; he and 2019 first-round pick TJ Hockenson are quite the tight end duo to build upon for the future.
OVERALL GRADE: A-
If you take away the selection of Swift, this was an absolutely flawless draft by the Lions. It’s rare to come out of the draft with a generational cornerback prospect, your offensive line finished, and impact, low-cost players in the front seven, but that’s the case with Detroit. If you replace Swift with a receiver like Laviska Shenault, considering they have no receiver under contract for next season, this would’ve earned an “A+”; I’m starting to buy into them as a serious contender to win the NFC North, especially with Matthew Stafford back healthy.
Green Bay Packers
Round 1, Pick 26: QB Jordan Love, Utah State (B)
Round 2, Pick 62: RB AJ Dillon, Boston College (F)
Round 3, Pick 94: TE Josiah Deguara, Cincinnati (C-)
Round 5, Pick 175: LB Kamal Martin, Minnesota (B+)
Round 6, Pick 192: IOL Jon Runyan, Michigan (B)
Round 6, Pick 208: IOL Jake Hanson, Oregon (B+)
Round 6, Pick 209: IOL Simon Stepaniak, Indiana (C)
Round 7, Pick 236: S Vernon Scott, TCU (B)
Round 7, Pick 242: EDGE Jonathan Garvin, Miami (A)
Heading into the first day of the draft, almost every draft analysts was mocking the Packers a receiver, cornerback, linebacker, or offensive lineman. Yet, they shocked everyone, trading up four spots to find Aaron Rodgers’ future replacement in Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. Love is a boom-or-bust-prospect, but the potential pay-off of him developing properly is off the charts. When you’re a team like the Packers, who don’t usually pick near the top of the draft, I don’t see it as a bad decision to take advantage of the opportunity to throw resources at the quarterback position, though trading up for him may have been unnecessary.
After finding Rodgers’ replacement, the least the Packers could do was draft a receiver for him, or further bolster the defense, right? Nope. Instead, Green Bay took a battering ram running back with no receiving ability or change-of-direction skills in AJ Dillon in the second round, despite the fact that they’re deep at the running back position. I didn’t even see Dillon as a draftable player, so to take a player in the second who doesn’t fit the modern NFL whatsoever, and won’t have a meaningful role, is just absurd. Heck, I’m higher on tight end Josiah Deguara than most, but not in the third round, especially when they want to convert him to be a fullback like Kyle Juszczyk, as Juszczyk himself probably isn’t worth a third-round pick.
With how deep the receiving class and cornerback class were, Green Bay still had the chance to find impact players on the third day of the draft, though not having a fourth-round pick. Given the emphasis defensive coordinator Mike Pettine puts on his linebackers to cover a lot of ground, Kamal Martin, an athletic linebacker with coverage upside, is a great fit. Yet, they then spent their next three picks on interior offensive lineman, which feels a bit like overkill, especially with slot receivers James Proche and Devin Duvernay still available. At the very least, they did get a steal in Jonathan Garvin, as he’s only 20-years-old, and is a long, flexible edge rusher.
Stanford Samuels was a cornerback that many thought would get drafted, so he’s the highlight of Green Bay’s lackluster undrafted free agency period.
OVERALL GRADE: D+
I’m on board with taking a shot on a quarterback, especially one with Jordan Love’s talent. However, how could Green Bay come out of this draft without improving at all on the perimeter? The Dillon pick was easily the worst in the draft, and between that, taking a fullback, and drafting so many interior offensive linemen, it’s clear that they want to copy the 49ers and “work through the run game”. The problem with that, however, is that they don’t have mastermind Kyle Shanahan, nor do they have an elite defense; San Francisco has also drafted a receiver in the first two rounds of the last three drafts! This is an organization that doesn’t have a clear direction, and as a result, I think they’ve completely lost their grasp on this division; if Love doesn’t develop and isn’t their starting quarterback in two years, this could go down as one of the worst drafts of recent memory.
Los Angeles Rams
Round 2, Pick 52: RB Cam Akers, Florida State (F)
Round 2, Pick 57: WR Van Jefferson, Florida (A-)
Round 3, Pick 84: EDGE Terrell Lewis, Alabama (C+)
Round 3, Pick 104: S Terrell Burgess, Utah (A)
Round 4, Pick 136: TE Brycen Hopkins, Purdue (A-)
Round 6, Pick 199: S Jordan Fuller, Ohio State (A-)
Round 7, Pick 234: LB Clay Johnston, Baylor (B+)
Round 7, Pick 248: K Sam Sloman, Miami (Ohio) (C+)
Round 7, Pick 250: IOL Tremayne Anchrum, Clemson (B+)
The Rams will be without a first-round pick for the next two seasons due to the Jalen Ramsey trade. Ramsey is an elite cornerback, so he’s one of the most valuable defensive players, but investing so much resources in one player, especially considering the state of the Rams’ roster, was/is destined to backfire.
After trading receiver Brandin Cooks, Los Angeles had multiple second-round picks to compensate for not having a first-round pick, so naturally, they essentially wasted one of them. I have no idea why they felt compelled to add a running back, considering they traded up for Darrell Henderson last year, but alas, they selected Cam Akers in the second round. Not only was Akers not close to the best running back available, but for them to think that adding a running back will improve their running game is absurd- their offensive line is atrocious as currently constructed. At the very least, receiver Van Jefferson is a polished route runner who’ll make an impact immediately, which he needs to considering he’s 24-years-old. Now, the Rams had to add to their offensive line, right? Apparently not, as they decided to gamble on edge rusher Terrell Lewis, who is both unrefined and was failed medically by several teams, and Los Angeles isn’t exactly the team that should be taking risks on players. On a brighter note, safety Terrell Burgess is a versatile playmaker that was an absolute steal at the end of the third round.
It’s clear that the Rams want to move on from tight end Gerald Everett and run more 12 personnel, as that would be the best way to explain selecting Purdue tight end Brycen Hopkins, who was great value in the fourth round after trading down. Meanwhile, safety Jordan Fuller is a capable backup, Clay Johnston can be an early-down linebacker for them, and Tremayne Anchrum is at least an offensive lineman.
The Rams actually came away with quite the haul in undrafted free agency. Safety Levonta Taylor and receivers Easop Winston and Trishton Jackson all probably should’ve drafted. However, their main signing has to be Josh Love, who is underrated due to his size limitations, but he’s accurate, has enough arm strength, and has elite pocket presence- he’ll be a very successful backup quarterback.
OVERALL GRADE: C+
They did make some nice picks with Burgess, Jefferson, Hopkins, and Fuller, as well as sign some players in undrafted free agency, but I’d love to see someone come up with a legitimate justification for the selection of Akers. If they actually care enough about their running game, how about improving the offensive line? When you’re tight on finances and have major holes on your roster, there is no reason to draft a running back with your first pick in the draft; they could’ve had tackle Josh Jones, linebacker Willie Gay Jr., cornerback Kristian Fulton, or a number of other prospects who play actually valuable positions. In terms of the value of their picks, a “C+” is harsh, but I just don’t understand how the Rams could honestly come up with the conclusion that they didn’t need to improve their offensive line; this draft was full of athletic offensive linemen that would’ve fit their offensive scheme perfectly!
Round 1, Pick 22: WR Justin Jefferson, LSU (A-)
Round 1, Pick 31: CB Jeff Gladney, TCU (A+)
Round 2, Pick 58: OT Ezra Cleveland, Boise State (B+)
Round 3, Pick 89: CB Cameron Dantzler, Mississippi State (A+)
Round 4, Pick 117: EDGE DJ Wonnum, South Carolina (C-)
Round 4, Pick 130: IDL James Lynch, Baylor (C+)
Round 4, Pick 132: LB Troy Dye, Oregon (A)
Round 5, Pick 169: CB Harrison Hand, Temple (B)
Round 5, Pick 176: WR KJ Osborn, Miami (C)
Round 6, Pick 203: IOL Blake Brandel, Oregon State (C+)
Round 6, Pick 205: S Josh Metellus, Notre Dame (B+)
Round 7, Pick 225: EDGE Kenny Willekes, Michigan State (A-)
Round 7, Pick 244: QB Nate Stanley, Iowa (A+)
Round 7, Pick 249: S Brian Cole II, Mississippi State (B+)
Round 7, Pick 253: IOL Kyle Hinton, Washburn (B+)
With major holes at receiver and cornerback, it was clear where the Vikings needed to get better- if you’re not sound on the perimeter, you’re not going to win many games. Luckily for Minnesota, they were able to improve significantly in both areas. Justin Jefferson will need to get better at beating man coverage after working strictly from the slot at LSU, but he’s as precise of a route runner as there is, and has as high of a floor as there is. Then, they were able to trade down and pick up an extra pick in the fourth and fifth round, and still got their cornerback in Jeff Gladney; his instincts and playmaking ability will work well in Mike Zimmer’s defensive scheme.
It’s risky to take a developmental tackle in the first round, but after that, it makes perfect sense. Ezra Cleveland will need some time to refine his skillset, which is why Minnesota is the perfect place for him. He’ll be able to sit behind Riley Reiff this season, and in a year, his athleticism will make him a perfect in their zone-blocking offense. Meanwhile, cornerback Cameron Dantzler’s lack of length, size, and long speed are concerning, but he also may be the most refined cornerback in terms of technique in this class- if he adds weight, he can be an instant starter in Zimmer’s defense, which perfectly compensates for his shortcomings.
It took until the fourth round for the Vikings to make some questionable picks, as neither DJ Wonnum and James Lynch figure to provide enough value as projects on the front four. However, their next picks all fit with what they’re trying to accomplish. Linebacker Troy Dye surprisingly fell into the draft, and with his coverage ability, he can replace Anthony Barr on passing downs. That may also be the case with safeties Josh Metellus and Brian Cole II, as they aren’t single-high players that fit in a split safety scheme, but could be converted to linebacker. As for some of their other notable day-three picks, Harrison Hand adds more depth at cornerback, while Kenny Willekes may start for them immediately as a rotational edge rusher.
I’m very surprised that Quartney Davis wasn’t drafted, but that works out for the Vikings, who desperately needed receiving depth outside of their starting duo of Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
FINAL GRADE: A
Not only did the Vikings get significantly better on the perimeter, but they also took the picks they had, and used it to even add picks for next season. They were both opportunistic and shrewd, and as a result, have successful retooled their roster, which is younger, but probably more talented. With the Bears and Packers making questionable decisions, Minnesota may actually be the team that is the main contender to dominate this division in the future, and if that’s the case, they’ll be able to look back at this draft as the reason why.
New Orleans Saints
Round 1, Pick 24: IOL Cesar Ruiz, Michigan (C-)
Round 3, Pick 74: LB Zack Baun, Wisconsin (B-)
Round 3, Pick 105: TE Adam Trautman, Dayton (B)
Round 7, Pick 240: QB/Utility Tommy Stevens, Mississippi State (B)
With a very sound roster, it was always going to be interesting to see what direction the Saints took with their first-round pick. In the end, they made a very surprising pick, selecting center Cesar Ruiz. At Michigan, Ruiz was a very consistent player and was one of the top interior offensive linemen in this draft, but he plays such a non-valuable position, and New Orleans should’ve instead looked at finishing off their receiving corps or getting younger in the secondary. At the very least, however, the selection of Ruiz allows them to plan for the future with a cheap replacement for guard Larry Warford.
The Saints had the 88th overall pick in the draft, but we knew that wouldn’t last, right? They mortgaged a future third-round pick to trade up for Zack Baun, a college edge rusher who’ll have to translate to off-ball linebacker. Now, he has the athletic tools to make that transition and be an effective starter, but the price was steep to select him. So was the price to select tight end Adam Trautman, which included a fourth-round pick, fifth-round pick, sixth-round pick, and seventh-round pick- the rest of their draft. Yet, the value of selecting a talented tight end prospect at that spot – I had him estimated at a draft range of picks 41 to picks 59 – was worth it. He gives them a future replacement for Jared Cook.
When it was all said and done, New Orleans couldn’t help themselves, so they traded into the seventh round to select Tommy Stevens. Though he’s listed as a quarterback, his value clearly comes from his ability to contribute in a variety of ways, similar to Taysom Hill.
Head coach Sean Payton said that an advantage of trading most of their day-three picks was that it would allow them to them to get a head start on undrafted free agency, and they took full advantage. Interior offensive lineman Calvin Throckmorton should’ve easily been drafted, as he’s a powerful player with center, guard, tackle flexibility. Meanwhile, receivers Marquez Callaway and Juwan Johnson add needed youth and depth to the receiving corps, while interior defender Malcolm Roach and linebacker Joe Bachie had draft able grades by most analysts.
OVERALL GRADE: C+
The Saints didn’t have many selections, but I can sense their strategy. They’re clearly playing the long game, as only Ruiz will definitely start for them in 2020, and even he fills a long-term need. In fact, they targeted three players who plays positions where the rookie learning curves are extreme, but in 2021, they’ll be ahead of the game in that regard- they took advantage of having such a deep roster to get better for the future. At some point, however, I’d like for them to stop trading their future picks, though I’m on board with trading the rest of their draft for Trautman- they don’t have a lot of roster spots for rookies. Overall, it wasn’t the greatest of drafts, but at least they have a logical direction as they prepare for life without Drew Brees.
New York Giants
Round 1, Pick 4: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia (B+)
Round 2, Pick 36: S Xavier McKinney, Alabama (A-)
Round 3, Pick 99: OT Matt Peart, Connecticut (A)
Round 4, Pick 110: CB Darnay Holmes, UCLA (A+)
Round 5, Pick 150: IOL Shane Lemieux, Oregon (C+)
Round 6, Pick 183: LB/EDGE Cameron Brown, Penn State (A-)
Round 7, Pick 218: EDGE/LB Carter Coughlin, Minnesota (A)
Round 7, Pick 238: LB TJ Brunson, South Carolina (B)
Round 7, Pick 247: CB Chris Williamson, Minnesota (C+)
Round 7, Pick 255: LB Tae Crowder, Georgia (B)
The Giants could’ve added an elite defensive playmaker in Isaiah Simmons, but they’re in a position where they need to give Daniel Jones a real chance to succeed, so it’s very logical that they did whatever it took to fix the offensive line. Andrew Thomas was probably the most refined pass protector in this draft, and I expect him to come in immediately and be an impact starter. It wasn’t the flashy pick, but if they were set on improving Jones’ surrounding cast, this was probably the best pick they could’ve made.
Even though they didn’t select Simmons, the Giants were still able to add a versatile playmaker for their defense. Xavier McKinney actually has some similarities to Simmons with his ability to play free safety, in the box, in the slot, or at dime linebacker, and although he’s not an incredible elite, he’s a very safe projection to the NFL. Continuing on with their strong draft, New York didn’t just come away from this draft with one tackle to build around, but a high-end developmental tackle in Matt Peart, who has the length and history of progression that makes him a high-value pick in the third round.
New York didn’t stop there; the selection of Darnay Holmes in the fourth round was an absolutely heist, as he’s a starting nickel corner who can grow to potentially start on the outside as well- when considering positional value, he was worth a pick early in the second round. Heck, it took until the fifth round for there to be a pick that I didn’t exactly love, as guard Shane Lemuiex is probably more of a backup, and selecting him just seemed like overkill on the offensive line. However, they got back on track after that; they took a pair of intriguing edge/linebacker hybrids in Cameron Brown and Carter Coughlin, who’ll fit into this multiple “Belichick” style defense, while the rest of their picks add defensive competition.
In undrafted free agency, Ohio State receivers Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor, as well as Maryland running back Javon Leake, are all strong candidates to make the roster.
OVERALL GRADE: A
The Giants didn’t pick Simmons, but honestly, I’m not sure the pairing of Thomas and McKinney isn’t better than the pairing of Simmons and whomever they would’ve selected in the second round. However, that wasn’t it, as the selections of Peart and Holmes, as well as some of their late day-three selections, were fantastic. Simply put, I’m extremely more optimistic about the Giants’ future than I was heading into the draft; general manager Dave Gettleman deserves a lot of credit for this draft.
Round 1, Pick 21: WR Jalen Reagor, TCU (B+)
Round 2, Pick 53: QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma (D+)
Round 3, Pick 103: LB Davion Taylor, Colorado (B-)
Round 4, Pick 127: S K’Von Wallace, Clemson (A)
Round 4, Pick 145: OT Jack Driscoll, Auburn (A+)
Round 5, Pick 168: WR John Hightower, Boise State (A+)
Round 6, Pick 196: LB Shaun Bradley, Temple (B+)
Round 6, Pick 200: WR Quez Watkins, Southern Miss (B+)
Round 6, Pick 210: OT Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn (A)
Round 7, Pick 223: EDGE Casey Toohill, Stanford (B+)
I wasn’t exactly in love with the idea that the Eagles HAD to draft a wide receiver, but they undoubtedly needed to add athleticism on the perimeter. Jalen Reagor is a dynamic player that provide that speed, and should benefit from NFL quarterback play after having one of the worst quarterback situations in college football. He’s not a complete receiver, but he has speed, and with other receivers on the roster, he doesn’t have to immediately be their #1 receiver. Overall, he’s a nice fit for what they’re trying to accomplish.
I’m all for taking a backup quarterback in the second round, as they provide as much as valuable as any other prospect likely would. Yet, I’m simply not a fan of Jalen Hurts’ skillset whatsoever, as his inability to go through progressions is extremely alarming; he looked like a product of the offensive-friendly environment at Oklahoma. Additionally, I like the idea of Davion Taylor, a developmental coverage linebacker/safety hybrid, but the third round was a bit early for him.
The Eagles absolutely dominated the final day of the draft. With them letting go of Malcom Jenkins, they definitely needed depth at safety, and with his versatility and ability to play the slot, Clemson’s K’Von Wallace is an accomplished player with a similar skillset. Meanwhile, they reunited the Auburn offensive line, as both Jack Driscoll and Prince Tega Wanogho were absolute steals compared to where they were drafted, as Driscoll in particular should be a future starter. Furthermore, between adding Reagor, Marquise Goodwin, and drafting John Hightower and Quez Watkins, they successfully added as much speed as you can bring to an offense, so the offense should be much more explosive moving forward. Heck, even Shaun Bradley and Casey Toohill are intriguing, athletic front-seven players.
Running backs Adrian Killens and Michael Warren were the Eagles’ most notable undrafted free agency signings, but they did have a lot of draft picks- they had less room for more rookies.
OVERALL GRADE: B+
As far as the positions the Eagles targeted, I have no problem with their early-round approach. However, there’s too much “boom-or-bust” with the top three players they selected, as even though the pay-off could be huge, I thought there were better players available at each spot. Nevertheless, their haul on day three was exceptional, as it’s rare to add two potential starting tackles, multiple explosive receivers, and an injection of athletic talent for their defense. There’s a very decent chance this could be an “A+” draft, but it also could easily be a “C” draft with how risky their early picks were, so a “B+” seems reasonable.
San Francisco 49ers
Round 1, Pick 14: IDL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina (C)
Round 1, Pick 25: WR Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State (B)
Round 5, Pick 153: OT Colton McKivitz, West Virginia (B)
Round 6, Pick 190: TE Charlie Woerner, Georgia (B-)
Round 7, Pick 217: WR Jauan Jennings, Tennessee (A+)
After trading interior defender DeForest Buckner for the 13th overall pick, the 49ers had all the ammunition needed to either trade down, or land one of the elite receiver prospects in this draft. Yet, they passed on both Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb in order to replace Buckner with Javon Kinlaw, which is a move that I simply cannot endorse. Kinlaw is a fantastic player who could cause damage as an interior pass rusher, but even at his peak, I have a hard time believing he’ll more valuable than Jeudy or Lamb, as well as tackle Tristan Wirfs or a cornerback. Plus, since they felt compelled to take a receiver, they not only weren’t able to trade down to secure mid-round draft capital, but they had to trade up to land Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk. Aiyuk’s playmaking ability will work perfectly in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, but he’s not going to be able to create for himself. Shanahan is the best in the NFL at scheming receivers open, but even he needed Emmanuel Sanders, a precise route-runner, for his offense to fully function. They’re missing that element to their offense, and will regret passing on Lamb and Jeudy as a result.
Since the 49ers traded a fourth-round pick and fifth-round pick to trade up six spots for Aiyuk, they didn’t have a pick on day two. For a team that’s tight on salary cap space and needed depth on the offensive line and secondary, that’s certainly not ideal.
The 49ers traded their fifth-round pick and next year’s third-round pick for tackle Trent Williams in a shrewd move to replace the retired Joe Staley. However, by trading running back Matt Breida and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin, they were able to add some much-needed draft capital. Colton McKivitz’s zone-blocking ability makes him a nice fit as a swing tackle, while Charlie Woerner will be George Kittle’s backup as a blocking tight end. However, the pick they made that could have the most potential pay-off is the selection of Tennessee receiver Jauan Jennings, who’s run-after-catch ability could do wonders in Shanahan’s offense.
In typical Shanahan fashion, San Francisco’s top additions were running backs, as JaMychal Hasty and Salvon Ahmed are zone runners who’ll have a legitimate chance of earning a roster spot, especially Hasty.
OVERALL GRADE: C+
The 49ers’ draft wasn’t catastrophic, but they could’ve done so much better. With how much they’ve invested in their front four, I just don’t understand why they felt the need to continue to do so. I like the fit with Aiyuk in their offense, but why not double-up at receiver? They also could’ve added to the secondary or traded down, but instead, they’ve continued to try to “build through the trenches”, which ultimately could lead to their downfall. I’m not sure even they understand why they were so successful last season, and if their cornerback production or passing offense regresses next season, they’ll be able to look back as a main reason why.
Round 1, Pick 27: LB Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech (F)
Round 2, Pick 48: EDGE Darrell Taylor, Tennessee (D+)
Round 3, Pick 69: IOL Damien Lewis, LSU (C-)
Round 4, Pick 133: TE Colby Parkinson, Stanford (B+)
Round 4, Pick 144: RB DeeJay Dallas, Miami (C+)
Round 5, Pick 148: EDGE Alton Robinson, Syracuse (B+)
Round 6, Pick 214: WR Freddie Swain, Florida (B)
Round 7, Pick 251: TE Stephen Sullivan, LSU (B+)
The Seahawks are known for making surprise picks, but this year’s version may have topped them all. Usually, they reach for players, but do so after trading down. Instead, they stood pat, and decided to take Jordyn Brooks? Don’t get me wrong, Brooks is a high-level run-defending linebacker, but he’s also a fringe liability in coverage, and if they wanted a linebacker, Seattle passed on more talented players. However, this goes beyond that, as the Seahawks’ main issue is that they play too much base defense, but the selection of another linebacker almost guarantees that they’ll continue to do so. So, not only did Seattle take a player 2 rounds before he should’ve been taken, but they’ve committed further to their archaic defensive approach, which makes me very pessimistic that the defense will improve next season.
Rather than trade back, the Seahawks surprisingly traded up, compounding their previous mistake by taking Brooks by drafting edge rusher Darrell Taylor. I was higher than Taylor than most, but when considering positional value, he’s not a special enough prospect to not only take in the second round, but to do so after surrounding a third-round pick to move up for him. Meanwhile, guard Damien Lewis fits their mold as a powerful offensive lineman with a nasty demeanor, but he’s a liability in pass protection, and passing on multiple offensive tackles and more refined interior offensive lineman didn’t make much sense.
The Seahawks have a lot of tight ends on the roster, but between Colby Parkinson and Stephen Sullivan, they’ve added a pair of tall, athletic receiving tight ends, and both were solid value selections. Plus, edge rusher Alton Robinson has all the tools worth gambling on in the fifth round, especially considering how thin their pass rush is. Obviously, this wouldn’t be a Seahawks draft without selecting a running back, but at least DeeJay Dallas is a solid receiver and is elusive; Freddie Swain could also compete in the slot. None of the players they selected on day three are definitely going to be future starters, but they add some solid contributors.
The Seahawks had two fantastic undrafted free agent signings; Anthony Gordon’s high-end accuracy makes me confident he’ll be an effective backup quarterback, while receiver Aaron Fuller undoubtedly should’ve been drafted. Gordon, in particular, gives Seattle the flexibility to not feel pressured to add a high-level backup for Russell Wilson, whose risky play style is always a concern.
OVERALL GRADE: D+
The Packers are getting absolutely destroyed by analysts right now, but aren’t the Seahawks? At least Green Bay potentially found their franchise quarterback; Seattle reached for players at non-valuable positions, and didn’t improve their short-term or long-term outlook. Honestly, I’m not sure what they accomplished from this draft.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Round 1, Pick 13: OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa (A-)
Round 2, Pick 45: S Antoine Winfield Jr., Minnesota (A)
Round 3, Pick 76: RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, Vanderbilt (D+)
Round 5, Pick 161: WR Tyler Johnson, Minnesota (A+)
Round 6, Pick 194: IDL Khalil Davis, Nebraska (B)
Round 7, Pick 241: LB Chapelle Russell, Temple (B+)
Round 7, Pick 245: RB Raymond Calais, Louisiana (B+)
The Buccaneers came into this draft desperate to select an offensive tackle, and by all indications, they tried to move up significantly to get their guy. That’s a terrible process, but luckily for them, they only had to move up one spot to select Iowa tackle Tristan Wirfs. With his athletic traits and overall refinement, he’ll be a day-one starter for them at right tackle, and the price to trade up (4th round/7th round pick swap), wasn’t substantial. It would’ve been unfortunate for them to not be able to select an offensive player or to select a project at offensive tackle, so getting Wirfs was an early Christmas gift for them.
Speaking of being gifted players, the Bucs have conistently had a major hole at the safety position, but with teams like the Bears, Dolphins, and Lions passing on safeties, Antoine Winfield Jr. fell right into their laps. His versatility and playmaking instincts are off the charts, and there’s a real chance he ends up being the best safety in this draft- getting him with the 45th pick was exceptional value. As for Ke’Shawn Vaughn, the third round was a reach for an average running back, though his abilities as a receiver fit well with Tom Brady- he’ll be their main receiving back.
The Bucs may have selected a running back in the third round and didn’t have a fourth-round pick, but they still were able to draft college football’s most productive receiver last season in Tyler Johnson. I don’t understand why Johnson fell, but he’s an elite separator, and will instantly be Brady’s go-to slot receiver; drafting him in the fifth round may have been the greatest steal of the draft. Outside of that, interior defender Khalil Davis and linebacker Chapelle Russell are interesting defensive developmental projects, while running back Raymond Calais is an absolute burner and could be a headache for opposing defenses.
Tampa Bay didn’t draft a cornerback, but they were able to sign one in Oklahoma’s Parnell Motley. Many analysts were high on him, and there’s a real chance he makes the roster considering their need for some depth in the secondary.
OVERALL GRADE: A
The Bucs’ desperation to do what it takes to win now is an awful process, but they still were able to essentially luck into one of the best draft classes that any team had. Wirfs, Winfield, and Johnson are valuable day-one starters who also have potential, and arguably fill their three greatest long-term needs. With New Orleans only having four picks, Carolina prioritizing their defensive front, and Atlanta drafting for need, they’re easily one of the main “winners” of the draft.
Round 1 Pick 2: EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State (B)
Round 3, Pick 66: RB Antonio Gibson, Memphis (C-)
Round 4, Pick 108: OT Saahdiq Charles, LSU (B)
Round 4, Pick 142: WR Antonio Gandy-Golden, Liberty (A-)
Round 5, Pick 156: IOL Keith Ismael, San Diego State (B)
Round 5, Pick 162: LB Khaleke Hudson, Michigan (A)
Round 7, Pick 216: S Kamren Curl, Arkansas (A)
Round 7, Pick 229: EDGE James Smith-Williams, NC State (B+)
It was always obvious that the Redskins were going to take edge rusher Chase Young, and to their credit, he’s probably the most talented player in this year’s draft. However, it’s very hard for an edge rusher to make a significant enough difference to justify them not trading down, taking an offensive player, or taking corner Jeffrey Okudah or playmaker Isaiah Simmons. He’s a fantastic player, but one star player, especially at a position that’s not extremely valuable, is not going to move the needle for a team that won just three games last season.
The Redskins were without a second-round pick due to them trading up for edge rusher Montez Sweat last season, and they made matters worse with the selection of Antonio Gibson in the third round. Gibson is an intriguing receiver/running back hybrid, but he needed to go to an innovate offensive scheme for his abilities to be utilize properly. If he ends up playing a traditional running back role in offensive coordinator Scott Turner’s offense, similar to Christian McCaffrey in Carolina, then taking him in the third round is a bad idea, considering all of their glaring issues.
After completely mishandling the Trent Williams situation and eventually settling to trade the star tackle to the 49ers for a fifth-round pick and 2021 third-round pick, Washington needed to add competition at the left tackle position with Gerald Christian. However, they could’ve done better than Saahdiq Charles, who not only has off-the-field issues, but frankly didn’t perform well at LSU. However, the rest of the draft was terrific. Antonio Gandy-Golden is a raw receiver, but has a lot of potential, and between him and Kelvin Harmon, Washington should have a possession receiver to complement Terry McLaurin. Meanwhile, linebacker Khaleke Hudson and safety Kamren Curl were terrific value picks, while Keith Ismael adds depth on the interior offensive line and James Smith-Williams is an interesting developmental project on the edge.
If it weren’t for injury issues, tight end Thaddeus Moss may have been drafted as early as the fourth round, and with his blocking ability and ball skills, he may be Washington’s top tight end. Also, quarterback Steven Montez was much better than some of the other quarterbacks drafted, and is, in my opinion, probably a better player than current backup Kyle Allen.
OVERALL GRADE: B-
Chase Young could easily be a Hall of Fame pass rusher, but it’s not about drafting All-Pros, it’s about drafting players who’ll help you win games. The Redskins hope to have their franchise quarterback in Dwayne Haskins, but with a subpar offensive line and only one reliable receiver, he’s in a disastrous situation. Washington’s fans may be ecstatic about adding Young and an explosive player in Gibson, but I’m guessing they’ll be picking at the top of the draft again next year.