Skip to main content

How free agency and trades have impacted the 2020 NFL Draft

Vincent Frank
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The past several days around the NFL have been filled with a flurry of blockbuster trades and signings. Tom Brady will play for a team outside of New England for the first time in his two-decade career. Philip Rivers is headed to Indianapolis.

Outside of the quarterback position, blockbuster trades of DeAndre Hopkins and DeForest Buckner have turned the NFL on its head.

Now, with about a month to go before the 2020 NFL Draft is held in some form, that annual event has been shaken up big time.

The gist: Mock drafts over the past few months can now be thrown completely out the window. Teams that seemingly had needs at certain positions addressed said needs in free agency or via trades. This is no small thing.

Out in front, the Arizona Cardinals have no need at wide receiver after absolutely shafting the Houston Texans for DeAndre Hopkins. Likely in the market for a quarterback heading into free agency, the Carolina Panthers are now seemingly sitting pretty with Teddy Bridgewater.

As you can tell, things have shifted big time when it comes to the top of the 2020 NFL Draft. I check in on that and more below.

Washington Redskins: Nothing Washington has done this offseason changes the dynamic too much in the nation’s capital heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.

  • The Skins have not added a veteran to the quarterback room. In fact, they continue to push back against that idea. Most recently, Washington has expressed no interest in Buccaneers free agent Jameis Winston.
  • The Redskins’ lack of activity as it relates to both quarterback and edge rusher seems to indicate that Chase Young will be the selection at No. 2 overall. After it was previously reported 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins could be one-and-done, he’s looking very much like the starter in 2020.

Detroit Lions: It seems that general manager Bob Quinn has somewhat shown his hand during the early stages of free agency. A trade down from the No. 3 pick seems to be in the cards.

  • Detroit signed former Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowl cornerback Desmond Trufant to a team-friendly two-year deal on Wednesday. It then proceeded to trade disgruntled fellow Pro Bowler Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles.
  • Linked to Ohio State product Jeff Okudah a ton in the past, he could be Detroit’s target should the team trade down from the third selection.
  • By adding linebacker Jamie Collins on a three-year deal from New England, Matt Patricia and Co. made it clear that the front seven would be a target this spring. Might that mean Clemson product and NFL Scouting Combine standout, linebacker/safety Isaiah Simmons?

Miami Dolphins: It was clear before even last season that the Dolphins have been targeting former Alabama standout Tua Tagovailoa in the 2020 NFL Draft. Nothing has changed on that front.

  • Miami has been among the most-active teams thus far in free agency, focusing primarily on the defensive side of the ball. That includes doling out a combined $178 million in cold hard cash to Byron Jones, Kyle Van Noy, Shaq Lawson and Emmanuel Ogbah.
  • In the process, general manager Chris Grier has shown his hand. The Dolphins are going offense-heavy with a majority of the five picks they have in the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft.
  • More specifically, a trade up with Detroit at No. 3 overall to nab Tua makes the most sense. Miami would then still be able to add skill-position talent with its other top-round picks.

New York Giants: As he continues to struggle with the basic elements of his role as a general manager, Dave Gettleman showed his hand in a big way during free agency. It’s almost now a foregone conclusion what direction New York will go in during the 2020 NFL Draft.

  • The Giants were said to be high on Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons prior to free agency. So it makes total sense that the team would then dole out $10 million annually to a fringe starter in that of Blake Martinez. Simmons no longer appears to be an option.
  • While he was a darn good player during his time with the Carolina Panthers, New York overpaid for corner James Bradberry. This seems to be a clear indication that Okudah is not an option.
  • Instead, New York pretty much ignored its tackle position in free agency. Even Gettleman knows that young quarterback Daniel Jones needs protection if he is going to progress under center.

Los Angeles Chargers: It’s not surprising that the Chargers parted ways with Philip Rivers after 16 seasons. A divorce seemed to be the best end result for both sides. It is surprising Los Angeles did not replace him.

  • This is a major tell from Chargers general manager Tom Telesco. Los Angeles will roll with veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor under center next season.
  • That’s a clear indication the Chargers are going to be targeting Justin Herbert with the sixth overall pick come April. They could also trade up for Tua if the team views him as a better option.
  • Given the moves they have made this offseason, the Chargers are not going into rebuild mode. There’s also a chance that they decide to pick up a player at a need position who can contribute immediately. Los Angeles is a major wild card.

Carolina Panthers: Signing Teddy Bridgewater to a three-year, $60 million contract seems to suggest that Carolina will avoid a quarterback in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. It also has another glaring need.

  • In addition signing Bridgewater, Carolina added former Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung in a trade with the Los Angeles Chargers. At 31 years old and dealing with a multitude of health concerns, Okung is a risk.
  • Even if he finds a way to return to form next season, Carolina is still going to be in the market for a franchise left tackle. It could come in the form of the No. 7 overall selection next month. Tackle is absolutely loaded in the draft. Said player could start at right tackle out of the gate before taking over for Okung.

Arizona Cardinals: Linked to every possible top-end receiving prospect heading into the draft, Arizona is now going to avoid that position with the eighth overall selection.

  • The acquisition of DeAndre Hopkins in a blockbuster trade with Houston changes the dynamic in a big way for Arizona. Hopkins will now team up with Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk to form an elite receiver trio in the desert.
  • I am now fully expecting Arizona to address the offensive line in front of young quarterback Kyler Murray. The team might have re-signed D.J. Humphries, but there’s still a major need on the other side of the line. In a tackle-heavy draft, that should be the direction Arizona goes in.

Jacksonville Jaguars: Here’s another wild card heading into the draft after making multiple moves that thinned out its roster.

  • Jacksonville has traded the likes of quarterback Nick Foles, defensive end Calais Campbell and cornerback A.J. Bouye. Outside of quarterback, this leaves some major holes for the team to fill.
  • Corner seemingly becomes a major need. It’s somewhat shocking in that the Jags had one of the best duos at this position heading into last season in that of Bouye and Jalen Ramsey.

Cleveland Browns: I am pleasantly surprised with how new general manager Andrew Berry navigated through his first wave of free agency with the team.

  • The signing of Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper pretty much eliminates the need for Cleveland to go skill position at any point early in the 2020 NFL Draft. Signing All-Pro tackle Jack Conklin fortifies one side of the offensive line.
  • There’s still some major needs here. Conklin played primarily at right tackle with the Tennessee Titans. He seems to be a more natural long-term fit at that position. Could this lead to Cleveland looking for a left tackle of the future with the 10th selection?

New York Jets: Largely quiet in free agency after striking out on some of their top targets, the Jets now need to find a play maker for young quarterback Sam Darnold.

  • This is where a run at wide receiver might be in the cards. It’s an absolutely stacked class at that position. Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and CeeDee Lamb all come to mind.
  • If the top 10 plays out like expected, the Jets will be in a tremendous position to land that true No. 1 receiving option for Mr. Darnold.

Las Vegas Raiders: Jon Gruden and Co. largely decided to help out the defensive side of the ball with the plethora of cash they had to spend.

  • Adding starters such as linebacker Corey Littleton, defensive tackle Maliek Collins and corner Eli Apple showed the Raiders’ hands in free agency. It’s seemingly going to be all about the offense come April.
  • Now that Las Vegas also signed Marcus Mariota to compete with Derek Carr for the starting quarterback job, that position doesn’t seem to be in the cards at No. 12. Look for the Raiders to go wide receiver here.

San Francisco 49ers: Shocking. That’s the best way to describe the 49ers’ decision to trade All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.

  • This move netted San Francisco the 13th overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. It’s a receiver-heavy draft, a position the defending NFC champs will look to address come April.
  • This leads me to a prediction. These 49ers will move down from the 13th selection with a quarterback-needy team to pick up more picks while still adding a receiver later in Round 1.

New England Patriots: Now in the market for a long-term starter following Tom Brady’s decision to leave in free agency, the Pats are a major wild card.

  • New England does not have the assets to move up for one of the top-three quarterbacks in the class. It, however, can turn its focus to Utah State signal caller Jordan Love in a trade-up scenario.
  • Love is seen as somewhat of a project, but he’s been compared big time to reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes. It’s something to think about with San Francisco being a potential trade partner.

Projected top 13

  1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, quarterback, LSU

2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State

3. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, quarterback, Alabama (trade prediction with Detroit)

4. New York Giants: Tristan Wirfs, offensive tackle, Iowa

5. Detroit Lions: Isaiah Simmons, linebacker, Clemson (trade prediction with Miami)

6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, quarterback, Oregon

7. Carolina Panthers: Andrew Thomas, offensive tackle, Georgia

8. Arizona Cardinals: Jedrick Wills, offensive tackle, Alabama

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jeff Okudah, cornerback, Ohio State

10. Cleveland Browns: Mekhi Becton, offensive tackle, Louisville

11. New York Jets: Jerry Jeudy, wide receiver, Alabama

12. Las Vegas Raiders: CeeDee Lamb, wide receiver, Oklahoma

13. New England Patriots: Jordan Love, quarterback, Utah State (trade prediction with San Francisco)

Bottom line

That’s just a number of different ways the top of next month’s NFL Draft could go. What we do know is that things have changed drastically on this front since the start of free agency.

It happens every year. Blockbuster trades are made to change things midstream. Huge signings are pulled off that determine what direction a team might go.

Tom Brady moving on from the Patriots. The blockbuster DeAndre Hopkins trade. San Francisco now picking in the top 13. The Los Angeles Chargers ignoring the quarterback position. All of these moves will shake up the foundation of the 2020 NFL Draft.