The Big Picture: Teams that nailed the 2020 NFL Draft

From left to right: Ohio State DE Chase Young (#2), LSU QB Joe Burrow (#9), and Auburn DT Derrick Brown (#5), all went in the Top 10 picks in the 2020 NFL Draft
Photo Credit: SBNation.com

After months of anticipation, the NFL Draft closed shop on Sunday after over 250 of the world’s best football prospects were selected. And with the future of sports being held captive by the Coronavirus, this once again returns us to a news-standstill.

However, this means we have all the time in the world to overanalyze every draft selection! Which leads us to today’s topic, where we pick some draft classes that caught our eye and others that raised some virtual eyebrows. While it is important to note that no one can possibly know how any given player will actually turnout, we can take an educated guess at the big picture. Which is why in this post and the one that follows, I must clarify that I am not grading every team’s draft but rather ones that stood out positively or negatively. In general, I like what most teams do a majority of the time but some classes have picks that mix the bag to bring it back to the middle of the pack. This is taking a glance at the classes that I thought hit a home-run in addressing their particular situation, while the second article will look at some classes that I found to not be doing the opposite. Keep in mind that we can all be prisoners to our own ideals of team-building and this will obviously effect where I have placed certain teams. These aren’t the only teams I felt made good selections, just the ones that specifically stood out to me.

Baltimore Ravens

  • 1st: LB Patrick Queen, LSU (#28)
  • 2nd: RB J.K Dobbins, Ohio State (#55)
  • 3rd: DT Justin Madubuike, Texas A&M (#71)…WR Devin Duvernay, Texas (#92)…LB Malik Harrison, Ohio State (#98)…G Tyre Phillips, Mississipi State (#106)
  • 4th: G Ben Bredeson, Michigan (#143)
  • 5th: DL Broderick Washington, Texas Tech (#170)
  • 6th: WR James Proche, SMU (#201)
  • 7th: S Geno Stone, Iowa (#219)
Raven’s 3rd-round pick, Texas A&M’s DT Justin Madubuike, who many consider one of the best picks in the 2020 NFL Draft
Photo Credit: BigBlueView.com Bob Levey/Getty Images

Baltimore had one of the most fascinating drafts in recent years, by finding value in the they selected for multiple rounds throughout the draft. Let’s look at the highlights of the class.

With the way Baltimore has developed linebackers in their twenty some-odd year history, Queen will likely be a plug-and-play guy in the Ravens front-seven as a rookie. The 2nd-rounder Dobbins is a back that many had projected to go much earlier in the round and provides a similar downhill running-style that current starter Mark Ingram does, allowing for a smooth transition when the veteran needs a breather. In the 3rd-round, Madubuike is potentially one of the steals of the draft, coming out as a junior with pass-rush upside to add to an already stacked Baltimore defensive line. Elsewhere in the draft, the Ravens wisely patched up their depth on the interior offensive line, while taking a smart flier on safety Geno Stone from Iowa. Baltimore clearly went into the draft in a position to take the best player on the board at each slot, as they did not have many outright needs.

Buffalo Bills

  • 1st: N/A
  • 2nd: DE A.J Epenesa, Iowa (#54)
  • 3rd: RB Zack Moss, Utah (#86)
  • 4th: WR Gabriel Davis, UCF (#128)
  • 5th: QB Jake Fromm, Georgia (#167)
  • 6th: K Tyler Bass, Georgia Southern (#188)…WR Isaiah Hodgins, Oregon State (#207)
  • 7th: DB Dane Jackson, Pittsburgh (#239)
Buffalo’s 2nd-round draft choice, Iowa’s DE AJ Epenesa playing against USC during the 2020 NFL Season
Photo Credit: BuffaloRumblings.com Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Hear me out on this one, folks. The Bills didn’t have a 1st-round selection, having traded it to the Minnesota Vikings for WR Stefon Diggs, but still came away with excellent value due to their roster construction prior to the draft, much like the Ravens. The Bills arguably got a 1st-round caliber player in Epenesa, an extremely productive college player who slipped due to poor combine numbers. The Bills could have went with JK Dobbins in the 2nd-round but didn’t because they knew they could probably find a similarly-talented player like Zack Moss in the 3rd to round out their backfield alongside Sophomore Devin Singletary. Another pick that stands out was stopping QB Jake Fromm’s slide, picking the SEC star in the 5th-round. In Buffalo, Fromm adds talent to a Buffalo quarterback room that previously lacked depth behind Josh Allen, giving the former Georgia signal-caller a place to learn. Elsewhere, the Bills padded their depth at wide-receiver with two day three selections, while also bringing in the strong-legged K Tyler Bass to compete with inconsistent starter K Steven Hauschka. It is hard to find a spot on Buffalo’s roster that the team isn’t better on paper than they were a year ago.

Cleveland Browns

  • 1st: OT Jedrick Wills, Alabama (#10)
  • 2nd: S Grant Delpit, LSU (#44)
  • 3rd: DL Jordan Elliott, Missouri (#88)…LB Jacob Phillips, LSU (#97)
  • 4th: TE Harrison Bryant, Florida Atlantic (#115)
  • 5th: C Nick Harris, Washington (#160)
  • 6th: WR Donovan Peoples-Jones, Michigan (#187)
  • 7th: N/A
New Cleveland Brown’s draft pick, S Grant Delpit (#7) with his LSU teammates
Photo Credit: DraftWire USAToday

Here, we have our first team with a high 1st-round selection. Cleveland absolutely crushed this draft, and the entire offseason to boot. It became glaringly obvious last season that the Browns had one specific weakness: the offensive line. Fast forward to this offseason, and all the team has done is attack this issue head-on. The team now has legitimate bookends on either side of their line after the signing of veteran OT Jack Conklin and the drafting of Alabama’s Jedrick Wills in the Top 10. On top of this, many were high on eventual-Brown 5th-round Center Nick Harris prior to the draft, which could be an added bonus to their O-line overhaul. This was the most important thing that the Browns had to accomplish this offseason and they absolutely made it their priority, all while taking worthwhile stabs at high-potential players like safety Grant Delpit (2nd-round), and wide receiver Donavan Peoples-Jones (6th-round), among others.

Indianapolis Colts

  • 1st: N/A
  • 2nd: WR Michael Pittman, USC (#34)…RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin (#41)
  • 3rd: S Julian Blackmon, Utah (#85)
  • 4th: QB Jacob Eason, Washington (#122)
  • 5th: OL Danny Pinter, Ball State (#149)
  • 6th: DT Robert Windsor, Penn State (#193)…CB Isaiah Rodgers, UMass (#211)…WR Dezmon Patmon, Washington State (#212)…S/LB Jordan Glasgow, Michigan (#213)
  • 7th: N/A
Wisconsin RB Jonathan Taylor (#23), was selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the 2nd-round of the 2020 NFL Draft
Photo Credit: BleacherReport.com AJ Mast/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Another team without a 1st-rounder, but unlike the Bills–who mostly flew under the radar–the Colts made a few splashes in the 2020 Draft. Their first pick was Pittman, an undervalued receiver that likely got pushed down boards because of the depth of the position this year. The Colts then used their second 2nd-rounder on Wisconsin running-back Jonathan Taylor, who set multiple school records for a program that has produced several NFL-caliber players at the position. Indianapolis entered the offseason needing to surround an aging-Phillip Rivers with more weapons. With Pittman and Taylor, this is what you can call affirmative action. Utah safety Julian Blackmon, the Colts’ 3rd-round pick, should pair with former 1st-rounder Malik Hooker in the secondary to give Indy a rock-solid back-end. While I am not crazy on QB Jacob Eason as an NFL prospect, the Washington quarterback does have quality arm-strength that is worth taking a gamble on where he was taken in the 4th-round. The Colts had many other dart-throws in late on day three, but no names in particular standout as an obvious value-play. Despite this, the first three picks of Indianapolis’ draft were so strong on paper, especially for where this team is going into 2020, that they earned a spot on this list.

Los Angeles Chargers

  • 1st: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon (#6)…LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma (#23)
  • 2nd: N/A
  • 3rd: N/A
  • 4th: RB Joshua Kelley, UCLA (#112)
  • 5th: N/A
  • 6th: S Alohi Gilman, Notre Dame (#186)
  • 7th: WR K.J Hill, Ohio State (#220)
Ohio State Buckeyes WR KJ Hill (#14) playing against Penn State
Photo Credit: TheSportsFanJournal.com USA Today

The Chargers have the fewest picks of any team on this list with 5, but they sure did make the most of them. Going into the draft, I had questions about all of the projected 1st-round quarterbacks, but thought it depended greatly on fit for many of them. Well, Oregon’s Justin Herbert landed in a great situation in LA on a Chargers team that does not need him to play right away. If he has to, the chances of him succeeding are better than if he landed anywhere else, given the team’s surrounding cast of weapons. The Chargers should be able to do something similar to what the Bills have done with Josh Allen, taking advantage of Herbert’s physical gifts while he develops the mental aspects of attacking NFL defenses. Continuing with the draft, the Chargers also made two of the wiser late-round gambles with Kelley (4th-round) and Hill (7th-round), who figure to contribute in key depth roles this season as skill position players. Hill I was shocked to see last until the 7th, as he has prototypical route-running ability to be an NFL slot-receiver. In the back-end of the 1st-round, the Chargers traded back in to grab Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray, who many had pegged as the best interior linebacker in the 2020 draft.

Minnesota Vikings

  • 1st: WR Justin Jefferson, LSU (#22)…CB Jeff Gladney, TCU (#31)
  • 2nd: OT Ezra Cleveland (#58)
  • 3rd: CB Cameron Dantzler, Mississipi State (#89)
  • 4th: DE D.J Wonnum, South Carolina (#117)…DT James Lynch, Baylor (#130)…LB Troy Dye, Oregon (#132)
  • 5th: CB Harrison Hand, Temple (#169)…WR K.J Osborn, Miami (#176)
  • 6th: OT Blake Brandel, Oregon State (#203)…S Josh Metellus, Michigan (#205)
  • 7th: DE Kenny Willekes, Michigan State (#225)…QB Nate Stanley, Iowa (#244)…S Brian Cole II, Mississipi State (#249)…OL Kyle Hinton, Washburn (#253)
Michigan State DE Kenny Willekes (#48), who fell to the NFL Draft’s 7th-round on Saturday.
Photo Credit: TheAthletic.com

Like I said during the Browns blurb, I love when teams don’t take half-measures in addressing their most crucial needs when they have opportunities available. The Vikings, by my count, had three such spots to sure-up on their otherwise top-tier roster: a replacement for WR Stefon Diggs, an upgrade and replacement for CB Xavier Rhodes and an offensive lineman that fits their blocking scheme. Consider them all addressed during the 2020 draft. Thanks in large part to the Eagles, who selected WR Jalen Reagor one pick earlier, the Vikings were able to get the LSU standout WR Justin Jefferson, a player that provides some of the same elements that Diggs did for Minnesota. After trading back and acquiring more late-round picks (just look at how many of those they ended up with), they drafted CB Jeff Gladney at the end of round one. Then, in the 2nd, they drafted Boise State OT Ezra Cleveland. Cleveland isn’t a fit in all schemes due to being undersized, but is perfect for the Vikings, as his above-average movement skills will blend nicely with the team’s outside zone rushing as well as the boot-action passing concepts that they like to run. The Vikings put multiple cherries on top of this class by selecting a few mid-to-late rounders such as Baylor’s DT James Lynch, that appeared on multiple sleeper lists leading up to the draft.