The sports world waited patiently as the 2020 NFL Draft helps us with some actual live action during the ongoing pandemic.
It did not disappoint Thursday night. Three quarterbacks went within the first six picks for the first time in north of a half century. Other teams added elite skill-position players to the mix. Meanwhile, there were some major reaches Thursday night.
It’s in this that we look at the top takeaways from the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Three quarterbacks in the top six
Given all the talk that former Alabama standout Tua Tagovailoa would fall come Thursday night, it was a shock to see him go off the board to the Miami Dolphins at No. 5 overall. Miami had been linked to Tua since before the 2019 campaign. Though, growing concerns over the hip injury he suffered with the Crimson Tide last season seemed to make it unlikely he’d go fifth.
One selection later, the Los Angeles Chargers replaced the recently-departed Philip Rivers with Oregon’s Justin Herbert. With Joe Burrow predictably going No. 1 to the Cincinnati Bengals, this is just the third time since 1967 that three quarterbacks have gone within the first-six picks. Yeah, it’s still a quarterback-driven league.
Broncos, Cowboys find legit playmakers
The Denver Broncos waited patiently to land a player at a need position in the middle of the first round. Once another receiver-needy team in that of the San Francisco 49ers selected defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw with the 14th pick, everything was set up nicely for John Elway and Co. They pounced, landing former Alabama receiver Jerry Jeudy. He’s the best route runner in the class and will be a major upgrade for young quarterback Drew Lock.
Just a couple picks later, Jerry Jones and the Dallas Cowboys added yet another stud pass catcher for Dak Prescott. It came in the form of CeeDee Lamb, who has been compared to prime Dez Bryant. Lamb now teams up with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup to form an elite receiver trio in Big D. Whew.
Cardinals’ defense has a chance to be scary
Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray has been campaigning for the team to select former Oklahoma teammate CeeDee Lamb with the eighth pick in Thursday’s draft. But once the Cardinals traded for All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins, that did not seem to make a lot of sense.
Instead, general manager Steve Keim and Co. went with one of the most electric defenders we’ve seen come down the pike in some time. Isaiah Simmons was an absolute monster during the NFL Scouting Combine. He can play multiple linebacker positions and safety. Teaming him up with Chandler Jones, Budda Baker and Patrick Peterson makes Arizona’s defense scary.
Some major Round 1 reaches
The top-10 picks or so went as expected. Those selected within that range were seen as high-upside prospects worthy of being top-end selections. It’s after the top 10 that teams reached in ridiculous ways.
It started with the Atlanta Falcons selecting Day 2 prospect A.J. Terrell at 16. While the former Clemson star played well at times in college, he was inconsistent and found himself burnt too often. Two picks later, the Miami Dolphins went with raw former USC tackle Austin Jackson. He was getting some late first-round play, but it also seems to be a reach.
Not to be outdone, the Las Vegas Raiders selected Ohio State corner Damon Arnette at 19. He was seen as nothing more than a Day 2 pick. At the very least, Las Vegas could have had him in a trade down. These were some major reaches for teams in need of immediate impact players.
Giants get necessary help for Daniel Jones
Despite rumors of a potential trade down from the fourth pick, New York had been targeting offensive tackle for some time now. It makes sense in that the overpriced Nate Solder is not a long-term solution to protect Daniel Jones blindside.
The Giants went with their top overall tackle in a draft stacked at that position. Andrew Thomas can play right tackle out of the gate, upgrading that position immediately. He’ll eventually take over for Solder a long the left side. For once, a team with a potential franchise quarterback decides to provide some help up front.
Ravens add yet another elite talent
It’s just not fair how a team with the best record in the NFL last season can continue to add talent up and down the roster. Baltimore proved that its success under reigning NFL MVP Lamar Jackson was not a fluke in 2019.
The Ravens stole stud linebacker Patrick Queen with the 28th overall pick in Thursday’s NFL Draft. A standout for LSU during his final season with the Tigers, including an impressive championship game performance, Queen is yet another chess piece for the Ravens moving forward. What a steal.
Patriots add to their war chest
Once the Patriots found themselves on the clock with the 23rd overall pick, most figured strong-armed Utah State quarterback Jordan Love would be the selection. He’d replace recently-departed six-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady under center. A seamless transition for Bill Belichick and Co.
That did not happen. Instead, New England moved its first-round pick to the Los Angeles Chargers for a second-round pick (37th overall) and third-round pick (71st overall). New England now has a second-round selection and four third-round picks Friday. It can add depth to a roster that’s lacking it in a big way.
Redskins don’t overthink it
Other teams were doing their best to move up to the second selection for a generational talent in that of Ohio State’s Chase Young. Washington listened, but was not willing to move the pick.
Will Young change the fortune of this long-downtrodden team immediately? No. However, he’s a foundational piece who could be the face of the franchise for years to come. According to many experts, Young is a better version of last year’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year Nick Bosa. Look at how Bosa changed the dynamic of the San Francisco 49ers’ defense last season. Expect a similar improvement in D.C. this coming season.
49ers-like pieces for defending NFC champs
The two moves San Francisco made during the first round of the draft Thursday night might not be popular among fans in Northern California. With that said, they are the type of selections that have defined the John Lynch era.
After trading down one spot in the first round, San Francisco added a physical freak in that of defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw at 14. He will replace the recently-traded DeForest Buckner. The 49ers then traded up to the 25th pick to select a yards-after-the-catch monster in that of Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. Time will tell whether this is going to pay off, but we now know what Lynch and Co. like in their draft picks. That’s for sure.
Aaron Rodgers unhappy?
The Green Bay Packers earned a trip to the NFC Championship Game last season before being blown out by the above-mentioned 49ers. The expectation heading into Thursday night was that Green Bay would find someone to produce out of the gate for the contending team.
Not only did Green Bay avoid going in that direction, it selected a quarterback in Jordan Love who will ultimately replace Aaron Rodgers under center. This is not the win-now type move the former NFL MVP had to be hoping for. It will also raise some questions about Rodgers’ long-term future in Green Bay.