NFL Draft Grades Round 1
Under normal circumstances, I loathe the NFL Draft. It is one of the most overhyped events of the sports calendar, and I generally spend maybe 15 minutes watching it over the course of an entire weekend. Why waste hours listening to bobblehead analysts when you can just wake up Monday and get the results, hype-free?
However, like so much of the rest of the country, I am that desperate for any sense of sports normalcy that I was all-in on last night’s NFL draft coverage. I embraced the surreal event and, armed with a bottle of Knob Creek, threw myself headlong into the proceedings.
Was it still a bit of the letdown I remember? Absolutely. But it was several hours of mind-numbing distraction and semi-consequential decision making so it was worth the effort.
Although the futures markets will likely react to “positive” or “negative” draft analysis – after all, the draft shifts public opinion, public opinion directs betting, and markets move as a result – I don’t think that much that happened on Thursday will influence much next season. Think about it: how often do rookies really make a major impact for NFL teams?
But future seasons will feel the ramifications of last night’s actions. So let’s break it all down with some 2020 NFL first round draft grades:
Cincinnati Bengals (A-)
Selection: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
Nothing brain bending here. They got the best quarterback in the draft and a potential foundational piece for the franchise moving forward. I give them credit for not screwing it up, which would’ve been a very Bengal-esque thing to do.
Selection: Chase Young, DE, Ohio State
Nothing brain bending here. They got the best player in the draft and a potential foundational piece for the franchise moving forward. I give them credit for not screwing it up, which would’ve been a very Redskins-esque thing to do.
Detroit Lions (C+)
Selection: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
The Lions should’ve traded down. Even if they couldn’t do any better than to pick up an extra second- or third-round pick, they should’ve taken it. I understand that they have a need at corner. But they pick at the top of Round 2 and could’ve waited and grabbed Antoine Winfield Jr., a player I’m high on. If Detroit had traded down, they could’ve gotten Brown or Simmons. And for a coaching staff in win-now mode, I think those players would be more ready to contribute than Okudah.
New York Giants (D)
Selection: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
I have no idea what Dave Gettleman was thinking here. I had it 50-50 that he would grab one of the top defensive players (Brown or Simmons) to help New York’s pathetic defense. I don’t mind that he went with a tackle. But he picked the fourth-best one!
Miami Dolphins (C+)
Selection: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama, Austin Jackson, OT, USC, Noah Igbinoghene, CB, Auburn
Put me in the category of those who think that Tua Tagvovailoa’s injury issues were a reason to pass on him. Maybe I’m wrong. But I don’t think that I am. I agree that it was savvy of the Dolphins to get Tua without having to trade up. However, my best-case scenario for the Dolphins was for them to grab one of the top tackles (or Derrick Brown or Isaiah Simmons) with their first pick, trade one of their first round picks to Washington for Trent Williams, and then grab Jordan Love. Instead, they got several ‘prospects’ with significant boom-or-bust potential.
Los Angeles Chargers (A-)
Selections: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma, Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
I’m going to ding the Chargers a bit because I don’t think that Justin Herbert is going to be a good NFL quarterback. And, frankly, the reason for the high grade is that they got Murray. He has outstanding potential and is a really good person off the field. He could develop into a face-of-the-franchise guy if Herbert falls flat.
Carolina Panthers (A)
Selection: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
This was my top-rated NFL Draft prop. I won a 7-Unit Play on Brown’s draft position ‘under’ 8.5 because I knew that even if several teams were foolish enough to pass on him that he wouldn’t make it past the Panthers. Brown is a beast and should be an anchor on this defensive line for a decade.
Arizona Cardinals (A)
Selection: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
I know that Arizona wanted to grab an offensive lineman. But they would’ve been foolish to pass on Simmons, who is one of the most unique players in this draft. His versatility reminds me of a young Brian Urlacher – another guy that people wondered aloud about playing safety. Arizona’s defense gave up more yards than any team in football last year, so this was a need area. They can get their lineman in Round 2.
Jacksonville Jaguars (A+)
Selection: CJ Henderson, CB, Florida, K’Lavon Chaisson, OLB, LSU
Jacksonville has a lot of needs. And they were able to nab two of the top players at their respective positions in the first round to rebuild a defense that had really fallen apart over the past two seasons. I really like both of these picks.
Cleveland Browns (A)
Selection: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama
I still think that Tristan Wirfs was the best offensive lineman available. But I love that the Browns didn’t outthink the room and addressed a major need here. I also like the fact that they were not baited into trading Odell Beckham. As big of a headache as he can be, this team is pot-committed to him.
New York Jets (A-)
Selection: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
I like that the Jets went with an offensive lineman instead of grabbing a receiver in a receiver-heavy class. Becton has tremendous upside and is just a massive human being. All of New York’s offensive struggles were the result of pathetic line play.
Las Vegas Raiders (C)
Selection: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama, Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State
I don’t love either one of these picks. This draft class is loaded with receiving talent, so it was a waste to reach for arguably the third or fourth best one. I also do not love the Damon Arnette selection. I know the Raiders need some secondary help. But they also need linebackers, and they could’ve had one of the two or three best LBs in the class. I don’t know that either one of these guys are going to pan out.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (A+)
Selection: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
I know they had to trade a fourth round pick to move up and grab Wirfs. But who cares? I think that Wirfs is going to be a multi-year Pro Bowler, and I had him as the clear best tackle in this draft. Not only will he help keep Tom Brady upright, but also he could be a cornerstone piece for this offense for the next decade. It was an absolute steal that they got him at this spot.
San Francisco 49ers (A)
Selection: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina, Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
San Francisco is living right. They got outstanding value for both of their first round draft picks, including adding another pick in a draft day deal. Kinlaw adds to their embarrassment of riches along the defensive line, and Aiyuk addresses a critical need for this team.
Denver Broncos (B+)
Selection: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Jeudy is a physical freak and a player. Denver has really done an excellent job of rebuilding its offense over the last 14 months, and they now have a young, exciting, athletic core of players on that side of the ball.
Atlanta Falcons (D)
Selection: AJ Terrell, CB, Clemson
If I were a general manager, my draft strategy would revolve around picking the best player first and drafting for areas of need second. Atlanta needs corners. That’s fine. There are still moves to be made to address that. Instead they reached for a shaky cornerback with their lone top pick. Terrell may seem like he addresses their problems in the secondary. But if he’s not ready to play next year – and I don’t think he is – then they just made their weakness in that area even worse.
Dallas Cowboys (B-)
Selection: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
A lot of people had Lamb as the class’s No. 1 wide receiver. And I suppose that I see the sense in grabbing him at No. 17 on value alone. But does Dallas really need another wide receiver?
Philadelphia Eagles (C)
Selection: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU
I will reward them somewhat for their boldness. However, this is another situation where even though this was a position of need, the Eagles could’ve waited and maybe gotten Reagor on Day 2.
Minnesota Vikings (A+)
Selections: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU, Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU
It was an excellent night for the Vikings. Jefferson has some serious skills and was a great pickup for the Vikings at a position of need. Also, they were able to move back, acquire some other picks, and still address their biggest issue (the secondary) with one of the top corner prospects in the draft.
New Orleans Saints (C)
Selection: Cesar Ruiz, C/G, Michigan
I don’t mind this selection as much as a lot of people did. I am always a fan of taking offensive and defensive linemen in the first round. However, I do agree that the Saints should’ve taken Patrick Queen, a local standout that also fits into their scheme at a place where they could use reinforcements.
Green Bay Packers (A)
Selection: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
I think that Jordan Love has the chance to be the best quarterback in this class. I don’t mind Joe Burrow – even though I wonder about the one-year wonder effect – but he is going to get ruined by playing for a horrible organization in Cincinnati. And I think that Love is going to be better than Tua or Hebert. He has Russell Wilson potential. And it is better to grab your future quarterback one year too early rather than one year too late. Having Love study under Aaron Rodgers is outstanding. And if Love’s presence somehow motivates Rodgers for the next few years, then that’s an added bonus.
Seattle Seahawks (B+)
Selection: Jordyn Brooks, LB, Texas Tech
Brooks was a guy that was getting a lot of buzz in the lead-up to the draft. Seattle has done such a good job evaluating college players over the last several years that I have gotten to the point where I don’t really question their maneuvers.
Baltimore Ravens (A+)
Selection: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
The Ravens really are one of the best-run organizations in the NFL. And a lot of times they succeed by just making the easy call rather than trying to get cute or trying to outthink the room. Queen was a steal here, and it won’t surprise me if he ends up making a Pro Bowl or two at the heart of one of the league’s best defenses.
Tennessee Titans (B-)
Selection: Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia
I will give the Titans credit for knowing who they are a playing to their personality. Tennessee wants to blow people up in the trenches and be one of the most physical teams in the league. I don’t think that Wilson is a first round talent. But I always say that if teams are going to reach a bit in the draft, it is better to reach for guys in the trenches.
Kansas City Chiefs (D)
Selection: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU
This kind of goes along with the Titans pick. I don’t love it because I think that there were better players on the board. But Andy Reid knows what he is looking for in terms of players that fit his scheme. And judging by his long-term success, it is tough to question him. That said, A) I think DeAndre Swift will be a better player and B) do the Chiefs really need more firepower on offense? I would be investing resources into the defense and the offensive line if I were Kansas City.
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