The 2020 NFL Draft is in the books, and to the surprise of many it went off without a hitch. The lead up to the first ever “virtual draft” was ripe with handwringing and doomsday predictions because, ya know, NFL general managers had apparently never before used modern technology.
Well, with the exception of a few awkward delays and momentary picture freezes, the whole shebang ended up being a seamless production that quite honestly was significantly more watchable than the dog and pony show the league usually rolls out. Dave Gettleman didn’t plug his rotary phone into a Commodore 64 and mistakenly (or on purpose) select Justin Herbert with the 4th pick. Jerry Jones didn’t trade the Cowboys entire draft haul for Tua Tagovailoa while chillin out maxin’ relaxin’ all cool on his luxury yacht.
Instead, the Giants, Cowboys, and several other teams trusted the process and behaved like professional football organizations. That doesn’t mean there weren’t a cacophony of impressively shrewd, downright awful, and bizarrely off the wall decisions made during the three-day, seven-round marathon. Let’s recap, shall we?
- Welcome to the Jungle – Even if Joe Burrow’s historic national championship-winning 2019 season at LSU was an anomaly, he still gives the long-suffering Bengals fanbase hope that things will turn around sooner than later. I will miss referring to them as the “Bungals” though. Ahh, the memories…
- Child Cheerleaders – Even though the ‘Mike Vrabel’s kid is taking a dump in the background’ meme was proven to be fake (winky face), child labor laws were still put to the test by GMs and head coaches who forced their offspring to dance and cheer after every selection. Most of these pint-sized promoters looked like frightened hostages, which was highly entertaining.
- Big Blue Bounty – Much to my chagrin, the Giants played it smart and took Georgia OT Andrew Thomas in the first round. If Daniel Jones is going to be the franchise quarterback for the next decade, he needs to be adequately protected. Thomas is a guy who can do that from day one. I miss dumb Dave Gettleman.
- Jeudy Can’t Fail – Denver stood pat at 15 and waited for arguably the top wide receiver in the class to fall into their loving arms. If the Broncos want any chance of competing with the Chiefs over the next few years, they will need playmakers like Jeudy. Of course, this surmises that Drew Lock is actually good.
- Mr. Goodell’s Neighborhood – The warm and cozy basement setting (which was obviously a Hollywood set) did nothing to polish Roger Goodell’s wooden, humorless persona. He still came off as a derpy douchebag desperately angling for a seat at the cool kids table.
- Go speed racer go! – If a wide receiver ran 4.3 or better at the Combine, he was drafted. Hell, the Eagles grabbed three of them and even traded for perpetually injured track star/football player Marquise Goodwin. Who knows if any of them can track a ball or catch, but watching the highlight packages was a blast. Needless to say, the Tyreek Hill effect has taken the league by storm.
- Life without Brady – The mainstream media was forecasting (and praying) that Bill Belichick would pluck a quarterback off the board after Golden Boy Brady took his services to western Florida. Wisely, Belichick sat this one out. Joe Burrow aside, the 2020 quarterback landscape was loaded with landmines. The Pats are much better off rolling with Jarrett Stidham.
- Super Freak! – Oh how the NFL loves massive offensive tackles who smash the Combine drills. Mekhi Becton is listed as 6’7″ 364 lbs, which was tantalizing enough for the Jets to draft him at #11 overall. His athleticism and ability to overpower pathetic ACC competition is eye-popping. However, I’m skeptical he can handle an elite NFL defensive end with speed, strength, and a variety of pass rush moves. This pick reeks of bust.
- Reaching for Ruggs – The NFL’s fascination with wide receivers who clock 4.3 or faster in the 40-yard dash at the Combine continues to be an exercise in futility. Leave it to the Raiders to snag Henry Ruggs at 12th overall. See Ted Ginn Jr, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Troy Williamson, Tavon Austin, Kevin White, and John Ross to name just a few first-round flops and disappointments. Ruggs is obviously fast, but his college production at Alabama was mediocre as best, and his profile as a deep threat is fraudulent. Behold, the proof.
- Moldy cheese – Hoo Boy! How ’bout those Green Bay Packers? Even though Jordan Love is probably Brett Hundley 2.0, drafting him to be the heir apparent to Aaron Rodgers a couple of years before Rodgers is cooked makes sense. What makes no sense is taking running back AJ Dillon in the 2nd round when Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams are on the roster. Even more egregious, the Packers chose to draft ZERO wide receivers in an historically deep wide receiver class. The front office might as well trade Rodgers now while he still has value because this team is going nowhere fast.
- Super charged – The vast majority of pundits, experts, and talking heads rated Justin Herbert as an average to atrocious quarterback prospect. The Dolphins spent weeks smoke-screening whichever gullible rube would take the bait they were “in love” with Herbert. Then they went ahead and drafted Tua Tagovailoa at #5, leaving Herbert to come off the board one pick later to the Chargers. Were the Bolts fooled and therefore confident Tua would drop to them, or did they ignore the noise because they genuinely liked Herbert and knew he would be there at #6? Whatever the case, the Chargers are rolling the dice on a guy who the draft community believes is trash. Good luck with that.
- Draft grades – Fans and sports media outlets get horny for post-draft letter grades. It’s a clear, concise way to summarize what each team accomplished over the three-day event. However, handing out grades is a pointless endeavor. Roughly 50-55% of first-round picks every year end up being busts or underwhelming players. Those numbers increase dramatically round by round. Obviously, the talking heads on ESPN or the NFL Network aren’t going to shit all over a kid whose lifelong dream just came true, but the lack of honest analysis borders on delusional. Hear the “experts” tell it, every guy drafted is going to be fantastic. For some context, let’s look at the Top 5 picks from the 2017 Draft:1) Myles Garrett 2) Mitchell Trubisky, 3)Solomon Thomas, 4) Leonard Fournette, 5) Corey Davis. Three misfires and Uncle Lenny is on the trading block. Garrett is the only hit and he’s fortunate to still have a job after attempting to murder Mason Rudolph with a helmet. Pro Football Focus at least takes into account positional value when awarding grades. Teams that draft quarterbacks and offensive tackles are graded higher than those that select running backs and linebackers. That line of thinking combined with an individual player’s skill set and schematic fit is the best way to analyze a draft. All that said, PFF and pretty much every other outlet doles out way too many A grades.
- Run for the hills – Why are teams still wasting valuable resources in the first three rounds on running backs? The lead backs for the last four Super Bowl winners consisted of two undrafted free agents (Damien Williams, LeGarrette Blount), a fourth-rounder (James White), and one first-rounder (Sony Michel). In addition, undrafted free agents Corey Clement and Raheem Mostert both scored touchdowns for the Eagles and 49ers, respectively. This didn’t stop nine teams from taking a running back in the first three rounds, including the Rams and Bills who did the same exact thing in 2019. Boggles the mind.
- Buyer’s remorse – Spending the fifth overall pick on a 22-year-old quarterback who endured a broken finger, knee sprain, high ankle sprains to both ankles, a pair of “Tightrope” surgeries, and surgery to repair a dislocated right hip in three college seasons isn’t ballsy, it’s insanity. Brittle quarterbacks don’t suddenly get healthier when they enter the NFL. The window for Tua Tagovailoa is already closing and he hasn’t even been fitted for a Dolphins jersey.
- Hurts so good – Eagles Nation went ballistic when Howie Roseman plucked ex Alabama and Oklahoma starting quarterback Jalen Hurts off the board with pick #53. As an Eagles fan, I’ve seen vitriol spewed at Roseman before, but this was on another level. It’s as if the fanbase forgot Roseman constructed a Super Bowl Championship team just three years ago. Bah! What have you done for me lately, pal? I’ll admit, I was shocked at first. But then I began to see the decision through the front office’s eyes. The Birds have played in six postseason games since 2017. Carson Wentz has been on the field for a total of two series in said games. That’s a major concern. In the not-so distant past, Howie duped the Vikings into sending him a first-round pick in exchange for a broken-down Sam Bradford. In 2004, the franchise shipped backup quarterback AJ Feeley to Miami for a second-round pick in the 2005 draft. See where I’m going with this? A quality backup signal-caller can be more precious than gold. Fans and pundits might not get it, but Roseman does. Hurts needs a lot of work as a passer. His recognition skills and deep ball accuracy are below average. He could be a disaster in waiting. Then again, he could be exactly what the Eagles need now and in the future.
- Follow the yellow brick road – Criticizing what John Schneider and Pete Carroll do on draft weekend always manages to fall on deaf ears. The Seahawks’ dynamic duo brain trust has always marched to beat of their own drum. They eschew the value of first-round picks, reach for players on a regular basis, and take a scattershot approach to roster construction. They lost to the Packers in the playoffs because Davante Adams eviscerated their secondary to the tune of 160 yards and two scores. Their solution? Draft a run-stopping linebacker in the opening round and completely ignore the cornerback and safety positions altogether. Odd. Also, LOL!
- “I’ll have the lamb, please” – The supposed top wide receiver, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, dropped all the way to the Cowboys at #17. Did teams wait on receivers early due to the depth of the class, or is there some sort of issue with Lamb’s evaluation? Coaching genius du jour Kyle Shanahan apparently had Brandon Aiyuk at the top of his receiver board, and both Mike Mayock and John Elway bypassed Lamb for other wideouts. On the surface, it appears dem Boys were gifted the steal of the draft. Or were they…
- Big Red Machine – Similar to the Packers, the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs elected to not add another downfield threat in a class chock-full of speedy wide receivers. Even taking Clyde Edwards-Helaire in the first round was a bit puzzling. Edwards-Helaire is a talented back who should excel in Andy Reid’s attack. However, almost any running back with average pass catching skills (see Damien Williams) will excel with Patrick Mahomes, Travis Kelce, and Tyreek Hill on the field. Seems like a missed opportunity to add even more over the top firepower to the league’s most lethal offense.
- The sincerest form of flattery – It’s clear that Packers head coach Matt LaFleur is copying Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Load up on running backs and offensive linemen and next stop, Super Bowl! Even if you believe it’s that easy, it was San Francisco’s defense, not their offense, that fueled their success in 2019. Lest we forget, Green Bay’s defense allowed Raheem Mostert to run for 220 yards and four touchdowns in the NFC title tilt. Did the Packers add anyone of note in the draft to help their defense? Nope.
- Stubborn to a fault – Bill Belichick skipped out on quarterback, but that was the only smart move he made the entire draft. Like Green Bay and Kansas City, the Patriots totally ignored wide receiver. Instead, they opted to select a pair of tight ends in a lackluster tight end draft. Their current wide receiver depth chart is as follows: Julian Edelman (soon to be 34), N’Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu, and Damiere Byrd. Yikes. Tom Brady jumped ship because the team refused to add young, fast weapons. There’s a lesson to be learned, but Belichick clearly doesn’t give a shit.
- Recency bias – A total of 21 players from LSU and Clemson were drafted, including 7 in the first round. Both teams were obviously peppered with top flight talent, but I get the feeling a lot of GMs just watched the college national championship game a few times and called it a day.