The Winners and Losers of the 2020 NFL Draft

Quibbl picks the three most successful and least successful teams at the draft

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, whether or not the NFL draft would occur on time was up in the air. Thankfully, the NFL decided to hold the draft during its original time and was rewarded for such a great event with around 55 million viewers tuning in during the three-days of the draft. This was a big win for the NFL front office, and when it came to drafting,  many teams entering the draft were looking for a big win as well. Having a great draft can have an immediate impact on a franchise like the 49ers drafting Joey Bosa or the Seahawks drafting D.K. Metcalf last year. And given the extraordinary amount of talent at this draft, picking well or poorly could certainly make or break a team.

Winners:

The Arizona Cardinals:

Having fleeced Deandre Hopkins from the Texans in a blockbuster trade, the Cardinals were the talk of the town in March. Yet, after this trade, the Cardinals still had a long list of needs to fill before the 2020 season. Kyler Murray was the most sacked QB last year, making the O-line a big concern. Another worry was their defense as they were often exposed underneath, demonstrating that they need help at the linebacker position. But with the acquisition of Deandre Hopkins, the Cardinals fulfilled their need for a star wideout and could now focus on drafting linebackers and offensive tackles.

The Cardinals managed to snag Isaiah Simmons (pictured above), a linebacker from Clemson, in the first round. But pigeonholing Simmons as just a linebacker is a mistake. Simmons lined up as safety, slot cornerback, perimeter cornerback, outside linebacker, and middle linebacker during the 2019 season. He also made headlines when he ran a 4.39s 40-yard dash at the combine despite the fact that he weighs 238 pounds. Simmons is the perfect answer for covering strong tight ends like George Kittle and chasing down elusive quarterbacks like Russel Wilson. This is a great pick for the Cardinals and they should be thankful an incredible talent like Simmons fell to them in the draft.

In the middle and late rounds of the draft, the Cardinals managed to find some amazing prospects too. In particular, Josh Jones, who plays OT in Houston. While Jones is not the most physically gifted OT nor the best run blocker, he doesn’t lose in pass protection. And since the Cardinals have one of the best wide receiver corps and run an air-raid offensive scheme, they’ll be throwing the ball a lot, making Josh Jones a perfect fit. Lastly, I want to point out LB Evan Weaver, their sixth-round pick from Cal. Weaver led the NCAA in tackles with 181, which is 27 more than second place. And while not the most physically gifted player, he certainly plays with his heart and could surprise people in the future.

Overall, the Cardinals had a great draft, securing talent that fits perfectly with their way of playing. The Cardinals roster has received a boatload of improvement since last season, and I think could do some serious damage in the NFC West next year.

The Cleveland Browns:

After a disappointing season, many doubt the idea of the Browns ever being good. Having a highly skilled offense with the likes of Odell Beckam Jr., Nick Chubb, and Baker Mayfield, many were confused how a team this talented failed in 2019. Yet, on further review the Browns had some areas in which they can improve on through the draft, like protecting Baker Mayfield and tightening their defense. With the free agency acquisitions of OT Jack Conklin and TE Austin Hooper, the Browns needed to find some talent for their secondary and improve their awful O-line.

With their first pick, the Browns managed to have OT Jedrick Wills (pictured above) fall to them at pick 10. Many people had Wills as the best OT prospect in the draft. Playing at Alabama, Wills has immaculate technique when it comes to pass protection and possesses the strength to pancake opponents on the run. Despite star players like Odell Beckam Jr., Jarvis Landry, and Kareem Hunt, the Browns offense was surprisingly silent due partially to their atrocious offensive line. By drafting Wills and acquiring Conklin, the Browns are certainly addressing their woes in the trenches and could see a resurgence in their offense.

Alongside Jedrick Wills, they also managed to have Grant Delpit, a safety from LSU, fall to them. The Browns trading for OBJ did not come without a cost, specifically in their secondary. Losing key safety Jabrill Peppers certainly hurt a decent Browns secondary, so getting Delpit is a big win. Delpit fell into the second round because of a mediocre follow up to an outstanding 2018. If Delpit’s ankle can fully heal and he works on his tackling angles, the Browns will get an intelligent and skilled star who can win contested catches. Lastly, the Browns managed to pick some high upside players in the later rounds like LB Jacob Phillips and WR Donavan Peoples-Jones. While both very raw, if given proper coaching, Phillips and People-Jones could be absolute steals for a team who already possess a strong pass rush and receiving corp.

The Browns managed to drastically improve their offensive line with Jedrick Wills and also picked up a proven safety in Grant Delpit. After a disappointing 2019 season, many people have written the Browns off. Yet, with the improvements made this offseason on an already talented roster, the Browns might turn some heads in the AFC North this season.

The New York Jets:

Flying under the radar, the New York Jets had a fantastic draft. Prior to the draft, they had  needs to strengthen their offensive line, secondary, and find a new receiver given the departure of Robbie Anderson. While none of their picks were too flashy or risky, they consistently found players that will most certainly contribute in key ways and improve in areas of need.

Last season, the Jets offense was horrible. Everyone remembers their loss to the Patriots where Sam Darnold was “seeing ghosts” on MNF. Their star running back, Le’Veon Bell, averaged a horrendous 3.2 yards per attempt and the Jets’ ranked 29th in the league in passing yards. But in the first and second rounds of the draft, the Jets addressed these issues with the picks of OT Mekhi Beckton and WR Denzel Mims (pictured above). Beckton is a freak of nature, possessing both strength and surprising agility. He should be instrumental in helping the Jets run game improve as his combination of speed and strength allow for great screenplays.

Alongside Beckton, Denzel Mims, who many thought to be a first-round pick, will be a great piece for their receiver corp. Already having Jamison Crowder, a skilled slot receiver, the Jets needed an outside talent that can catch jump balls. Denzel Mims fits this need perfectly as he caught countless contested catches for Baylor last season. Alongside this, Mims possesses a great work ethic as seen in his willingness to block for his teammates when he doesn’t have the ball. These picks definitely improve the Jets offense and with a healthy Sam Darnold, we could see a lot of touchdowns in MetLife Stadium this season.

In the middle and late rounds, many of the Jets’ picks went to improving their secondary. Most notably, they took safety Ashtyn David from Cal in the 3rd round. Davis is extremely athletic, running in the low 4.4’s for his 40 yard time. Alongside this, he is not afraid to tackle and possesses a high football IQ as he led the Golden Bear’s defence last season. Given Davis is such a versatile talent, I am surprised he was available in the third round. With Davis being such an incredible safety, this pick certainly supports the rumors that the Jets desire to trade strong safety Jamal Adams, the former 6th overall draft pick in 2017.

The departure of Brady from the AFC East has created a power vacuum for new teams to emerge. While most see the Bills or the Dolphins ascending atop the AFC East, many forget that the Jets made significant improvement over last season and won six of their last eight games. These new picks will bring opportunities for the Jets’ offence to shine as well as patch their leaky secondary, and just might make them a force to be reckoned with in the AFC East.

Honorable mentions: Ravens, Broncos, and Cowboys

Losers:

The Green Bay Packers:

Making it to the NFC Championship game last season, the Packers had very few needs this offseason. One of the glaring issues was the lack of wide receiver talent aside from Davante Adams. Whether it was Geronimo Allison dropping another easy pass or Marquez Valdez-Scantling forgetting his route, the Packers wide receivers were awful.

Thus, many fans thought the Packers would get Aaron Rodgers a new weapon in the first round of the draft. But Packers fans were certainly taken aback with their first-round selection: QB Jordan Love from Utah State (pictured above). Love is probably the most athletically gifted quarterback in the draft but lacks an ability to read defenses and make good decisions consistently. Many saw him as a high upside project that has the skill to be a star QB only after a few years of learning. But no one saw him going to the Packers, who are a team looking to win now. Also, they already have Aaron Rodgers signed through 2023. With all these factors, picking a project QB makes little sense for a team looking to compete for a Super Bowl this season.

Alongside this, their second round pick, running back AJ Dillion, did little to right their first round mishap. Though a running back is a great selection for a team looking to win right now as they often have immediate impact, the Packers already have two good running backs. Aaron Jones was 12th in the league in rushing yards as well as netting 19 touchdowns in 2019. Alongside him, Jamaal Williams is certainly no slouch as Jones’s backup. Reaching for a running back in the 2nd round as a team already loaded with running talent left many confused as to why the Packers didn’t pick a receiver.

In fact, the Packers never took a wide receiver during this draft, only signing one undrafted free agent wide receiver afterwards. The Packers even picked three interior offensive linemen and no wideout! While surely the Packers are trying to model offense after the 49er’s run-heavy scheme, the 49ers still have plenty of receiving talent, like George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, and Brandon Aiyuk. The Packers not only failed to get Rodgers a receiving talent he so desperately needed, but also failed to get any player who will have a significant and immediate impact on a team that needs to win now.

The New England Patriots:

With the departure of Tom Brady, the future of the Patriots is up in the air. Many think they will try to tank for a QB like Trevor Lawrence or Justin Fields in the 2021 draft. Others believe that Belichek has some tricks up his sleeve and will somehow improve the Patriots offence so they can compete for a Super Bowl this season. The draft gave us no indication of either one. In fact, it felt like nothing had changed. In typical fashion, Bill Belichek traded out of the first round to go on to select a Division II linebacker, Kyle Dugger, that many consider a reach. Alongside this, the Patriots drafted two tight ends in the third round. While the Patriots certainly need help at tight end, this draft is surprisingly shallow at this position considering how much talent other positions like wide receiver or offensive line have. It would have been much smarter to draft a tight end last year given all the great players available then.

In the fifth round, the Patriots selected Justin Rohrwasser (pictured above), a kicker from Marshall. This pick has certainly stirred up controversy in the past few days as people noticed a tattoo that is affiliated with a right wing militia group. While Rohrwasser publicly stated that he has no affiliation with any militia group, this pick certainly raises concerns about whether the Patriots did enough research on this pick. Given these picks alongside the fact that they did not select any wide receivers or quarterbacks, the Patriots had a lackluster draft. Knowing the Patriots though, their odd selections will probably end up being stars in the future and we’ll all be scratching our heads once again.

The Houston Texans:

Having lost star receiver Deandre Hopkins in a trade many saw as a complete failure, the Texans certainly needed a good draft. Yet, it’s quite hard to have a good draft when you only have five picks and none of them are in the first round. The frustration of the Texans was visible late in the third round when GM Bill O’Brien slammed his phone in anger and had a small meltdown. As for their needs, the Texans should have been focused on getting gritty players for their secondary as well as the trenches. Despite trading Hopkins, the Texans still possess a great deal of skill on offense as they still have Deshaun Watson at QB and talent in the wide receiver and running back positions. So their draft was mainly focused on improving the offensive line and defense.

The Texans did grab Ross Blacklock from TCU (pictured above), a physical defensive end who struggles against double teams, but in general, is quite versatile. Yet, their other picks, like Jonathan Greeland or Charlie Heck, possess some questions as to whether these players possess the athleticism necessary to succeed at the NFL level. While Deshaun Watson is certainly a master of evading pass rushers, he still needs a decent o-line. The Texans can’t rely on him to make miraculous plays every other down. Yet, only selecting one OT in Charlie Heck, who is questionable to make the roster, is not going to cut it. Lastly, they did not manage to get any help until the 5th round for their ever struggling secondary. While the Texans are certainly a high skilled team on offense, their lack of depth on defence raises concerns about how well they can stop the rising offenses of the Colts and Titans.

Dishonorable Mentions: Seahawks, Eagles, and Falcons

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