Raising Eyebrows: NFL Drafts that Just Didn’t Add Up

Hey football fans, welcome back to the huddle!

As it relates to draft history, whether it be the NFL or CFL, we always look back on the successful players selected that season and how they impacted the teams that drafted them. Unfortunately, we also reference players and teams that didn’t do so well.

Some question the relevance of draft-grades immediately following the event since we can’t truly tell how players will fare in the league. While I mostly agree, there are some cases where we can see general warning signs about team direction when certain picks are made. For example, when the Cleveland Browns drafted polarizing Texas A&M Quarterback Johnny Manziel in the 1st-round in 2014, most immediately questioned the chance of success for both player and team.

With this in mind, today we look scour the draft classes of the NFL’s 32 teams to see which ones don’t really add up to addressing that particular team’s circumstances. In doing so, I will point out why I don’t agree with the direction the team took with some of their selections. The bottom line is that even draft classes that uncover some solid players can be skewed in perception by one or two missteps, its the nature of the business.

Without further delay, here are our picks!

Green Bay Packers

  • 1st: QB Jordan Love, Utah State (#26)
  • 2nd: RB AJ Dillon, Boston College (#62)
  • 3rd: TE Josiah Deguara, Cincinnati (#94)
  • 4th: N/A
  • 5th: LB Kamal Martin, Minnesota (#175)
  • 6th: OL Jon Runyan, Michigan (#192)…C Jake Hanson, Oregon (#208)…OT Simon Stepaniak, Indiana (#209)
  • 7th: S Vernon Scott, TCU (#236)…EDGE Jonathan Garvin, Miami (#242)
Florida State running back Cam Akers (#2) playing against UCLA
Photo Credit: Madison.com Associated Press Archives

The most controversial team draft class this season. As we will see on this list, it is not so much that I don’t like any of the given team’s draft picks, but rather one or two stinkers bring the grade down. I cannot say that about the Packers this year, who had a directionless draft when considering where the team is at.

On the surface, I do like the foresight shown by Green Bay in grabbing their future quarterback to groom for years to come with the Jordan Love selection. However, when seeing what the team chose to do with their remaining draft picks, it just doesn’t add up. This franchise was one win away from the Super Bowl in 2019, and did next to nothing to address their core weakness: diversification of their passing game. In a deep draft at the position, the Packers had to walk away with a legit candidate to start opposite star wide receiver Davante Adams and failed to do so. Instead, the team selected a running back in the 2nd-round with A.J Dillon, a player that has talent but is a non-factor in the passing game and likely could have been had in round-3. When it appeared that the 3rd-round would be the sweet spot to address the weapons’ issue, they selected a tight end in Deguara who is on paper a better blocker than pass-catcher entering the league. By the end of the weekend, Green Bay opted against taking even one wide receiver anywhere in the draft.

Ultimately, I just expected more aggressive action from a team that had plenty of success last season. The Packers have never heavily invested in skill-position players around legendary quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and it is hard not to look at this draft as an outright betrayal of the future Hall of Famer.

Philadelphia Eagles

  • 1st: WR Jalen Reagor, TCU (#21)
  • 2nd: QB Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma (#53)
  • 3rd: LB Davion Taylor, Colorado (#103)
  • 4th: S K’Von Wallace, Clemson (#127)…OL Jack Driscoll, Auburn (#145)
  • 5th: WR John Hightower, Boise State (#168)
  • 6th: LB Shaun Bradley, Temple (#196)…WR Quez Watkins, Southern Miss (#200)…OT Prince Tega Wanogho, Auburn (#210)
  • 7th: LB Casey Toohill, Stanford (#233)
New Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (#1), playing for the Oklahoma Sooners
Photo Credit: TheAthletic

There are a few really educated selections in Philadelphia’s draft, but their first two decisions to grab Reagor and Hurts respectively, have me shaking my head. I don’t hate Reagor or Hurts as NFL Prospects, but rather where they were selected and what role they will be asked to play in Philly.

The Eagles had a desperate need for wide receivers this offseason with their 2019 options proving to be an injury waiting to happen. With the exception of the trade for niche’ wide receiver Marquis Goodwin, the team’s main course of action to fill this was to draft Reagor, a former star at TCU. Reagor is very athletic and thrives in the return game but his tape and production in 2019 did not suggest him to be a 1st-rounder and a guy you can build your NFL offense around day one. Unfortunately, the Eagles will likely require that of him.

The selection of Hurts is one of the most bizarre in this year’s draft. The Oklahoma quarterback, who has SOME athletic upside, is Philly’s way of expensive insurance for often-injured starter Carson Wentz. Its fine to be forward thinking like this, but is it really worth an investment of high day two pick? Whats worse, was any other NFL team scrambling to pick Hurts in the 2nd-round? I have a hard time believing that, since Hurts is not a typical 2nd-round prospect as a passer. Now, short after the draft, there are reports that the Eagles will try to use Jalen Hurts like the Saints use gadget quarterback Taysom Hill. The only problem is, Hurts just doesn’t have nearly the physical build or athleticism that Hill does and I feel as a result it will be a failed strategy.

Overall, the first two picks for the Eagles could have been wiser, given the value of the roles Reagor and Hurts will be expected to fill.

Las Vegas Raiders

  • 1st: WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama (#12)…CB Damon Arnette, Ohio State (#19)
  • 2nd: N/A
  • 3rd: RB/WR Lynn Bowden, Kentucky (#80)…WR Bryan Edwards, South Carolina (#81)…LB Tanner Muse, Clemson (#100)
  • 4th: G John Simpson, Clemson (#109)…CB Amik Robertson, Louisiana Tech (#139)
  • 5th: N/A
  • 6th: N/A
  • 7th: N/A
Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette (#3), was a surprise day one pick by the Raiders
Photo Credit: SilverandBlackPride.com Matt Kartozian–USA Today Sports

It may be a surprise to some to see the Raiders listed here, but in my book, they produced a mixed bag. I like, but do not love the selection of Ruggs, a speedster from Alabama. The reason I don’t completely love it is that he may not be an ideal fit for the Vegas offense led by Derek Carr. For better or for worse, Carr has consistently been amongst the most conservative quarterbacks in the NFL, illustrated by finishing near the very bottom in depth of target for most of his career. Even though Ruggs will surely bring an explosive element to the offense, don’t expect Carr to start slinging the ball around like Patrick Mahomes back there, as I feel that isn’t in his nature given his career history. As a result, I feel that going with more of an all-around receiver such as Jerry Jeudy–a player that was still on the board–would have been a little wiser.

Now, the major issue with this draft class is their second 1st-round pick, Arnette, a cornerback from Ohio State. Arnette simply isn’t a 1st-round caliber at his position due to his lack of explosion as an athlete, and what’s worse, there were several other options on the table in a deep draft at corner. In the 3rd-round, they selected hybrid back/receiver Lynn Bowden where I feel they could have filled other needs or went with a more true receiver, such as Texas’ Devin Duvernay.

These are the picks, that on the surface, drag down the quality of the Raiders’ 2020 class.

Los Angeles Rams

  • 1st: N/A
  • 2nd: RB Cam Akers, Florida State (#52)…WR Van Jefferson, Florida (#57)
  • 3rd: EDGE Terrell Lewis, Alabama (#84)…S Terrell Burgess, Utah (#104)
  • 4th: TE Brycen Hopkins, Purdue (#136)
  • 5th: N/A
  • 6th: S Jordan Fuller, Ohio State (#199)
  • 7th: LB Clay Johnston, Baylor (#234)…K Sam Sloman, Miami (Ohio) (#248)…G Tremayne Anchrum, Clemson (#250)
Cam Akers (#3), playing for Florida State University
Photo Credit: SpectrumLocalNews.com

Another team that I didn’t feel went in the right direction draft weekend were the Rams. A team without a 1st-rounder after trading for CB Jalen Ramsey last season, LA had two 2nd-round selections, which it used to select two skill position players in Akers and Jefferson. It is decent value for Jefferson, an offseason riser from Florida but I would not say the same about Akers, a talented-but-flawed back who honestly should have been picked in a later round. However, it is mainly due to the Rams ignoring their pressing needs along the offensive line that force the team onto this list.

This year’s draft was loaded at offensive tackle and was solid along the interior, and yet the Rams did not take an lineman on the offensive side until the 7th-round. Based on how the Rams have played under Coach Sean McVay, the team relies heavily on a stretch-zone running scheme that sets up play-action for QB Jared Goff to go to work. The Rams line ranked near the bottom in many advanced statistics last season according to Pro Football Outsiders, with the team performing particularly bad in line-rushing yards. The 2019 Rams suffered greatly from the free agent loss of guard Roger Saffold, and still have done little to upgrade the line since.

As a result I fear this may haunt the Rams again in 2020. Unfortunately, it was rather disappointing how the draft for this team unfolded given their chief wasn’t really addressed.

New York Jets

  • 1st: OT Mekhi Becton, Louisville (#11)
  • 2nd: WR Denzel Mims, Baylor (#59)
  • 3rd: S Ashtyn Davis, California (#68)…DE Jabari Zuniga, Florida (#79)
  • 4th: RB La’Mical Perine, Florida (#120)…QB James Morgan, Florida International (#125)…OT Cameron Clark, Charlotte (#129)
  • 5th: CB Bryce Hall, Virginia (#158)
  • 6th: P Braden Mann, Texas A&M (#191)
  • 7th: N/A
New York Jets 3rd-round pick Jabari Zuniga (#92), playing at the University of Florida
Photo Credit: NorthJersey.com Kim Clement/USA Today Sports

The Jets had the most difficult draft to evaluate. Depending on if you are a glass half-full type of person, you might be quite optimistic about the players New York was able to acquire. Personally, however, I lean towards glass half-empty. I do like some of the Jets picks if not most, but I am concerned with a few spots.

Look no further than 1st-rounder Mekhi Becton, who has weaknesses in more areas than people realize. Becton should be a rock-solid pass-blocker but his technique on his run-blocking is non-existent according to some independent scouts I follow. The Jets could have opted for Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, who is arguably more athletic and provides more physicality in the running game. Its not a bad pick by New York, just one that would particularly concern me.

Mims is another boom-or-bust type prospect who struggles with consistency, with the Jets taking on a significant amount of risk spending a 2nd-rounder. This selection was just okay for the Jets, who are in need of talented pass-catchers immediately and might not get that right away with the former Baylor receiver.

Fast forward to the middle of round-3 and the team selected Florida defensive end Jabari Zuniga, which is a bit high for my liking. Being a Florida Gators fan, I have watched plenty of Zuniga, a player who has decent athleticism but hasn’t really developed. He was a player that was simply picked a couple rounds too high in my opinion. Alabama edge-rusher Terrell Lewis would have been a better selection for the position and was picked a few slots later.

The Jets did spend a 4th-round pick on surprising quarterback James Morgan despite Georgia’s Jake Fromm being on the board until the middle of the 5th-round, but the other picks are the major points of concern.

Personally, I think the Jets took on plenty of risk with some of their selections where they could have went to different players with potentially more upside. Otherwise, they performed alright on draft weekend.