The 2020 NFL draft wasn’t quite a live sporting event, but it was enough to distract fans from the global pandemic that has kept major leagues indefinitely suspended. Here are the teams that we think did the best and worst jobs of improving their future.
Baltimore Ravens: Baltimore didn’t have many needs after winning 14 games in 2019, but general manager Eric DeCosta and head coach John Harbaugh maximized their positioning during the draft’s first two days.
After losing linebackers Patrick Onwuasor and Josh Bynes in free agency, the Ravens tapped rangy LSU linebacker Patrick Queen with their first pick (28th overall). Queen is undersized for the position, but possesses blistering sideline-to-sideline speed and strong pass coverage abilities. After Queen, Baltimore added Ohio State running back JK Dobbins, an exciting addition to Baltimore’s record-breaking rushing attack who should effectively spell 30-year-old starter Mark Ingram and backup Gus Edwards.
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Instead of Queen or Dobbins, it was third-round pick Justin Madubuike that excited draft analysts the most. Some experts thought the brawny Texas A&M defensive tackle would go early in the second round, but he instead fell to Baltimore at pick No 71. When asked what his favorite part of playing football is, Madubuike told USA Today “I love putting my hand in somebody’s throat and pushing them all the way backward.” Add in fellow third-round pick Devin Duvernay, who logged 106 catches and nine touchdown receptions last year at Texas, and the Ravens left the 2020 draft looking like the biggest winners.
Dallas Cowboys: The question that vexes every team when drafting is whether you select the best player available or the player that fits your biggest need. The Cowboys entered the draft with one of the league’s most loaded offenses but still spent their first-round pick on Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, one of three standout receivers in the 2020 class. Dallas had more glaring needs at defensive back and defensive line, but wily owner and team president Jerry Jones decided on Lamb, who has the explosiveness, strength and route precision of a future superstar.
The gamble on Lamb may be worth it after Dallas unexpectedly landed Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs in the second round. Diggs is a former receiver who converted to defensive back and excelled in 2019 with three interceptions, 11 pass breakups and is a player many scouts considered a first-round talent. Third-round pick Neville Gallimore is a mammoth interior defensive lineman that Dallas may have lucked into at pick No82 and fourth-round cornerback Reggie Robinson gives them depth at one of their weakest positions.
Indianapolis Colts: The Colts drafted some of the best players available and filled some of their biggest needs even without a first-round pick. Second-round pick Michael Pittman is one of the many stud receivers of this draft class; the USC product is a sturdy 6ft 4in with excellent hands and enough speed to become the Colts’ top receiver within the next few seasons. Running back Jonathan Taylor is one of the most successful college players of all-time – he became the first player in NCAA history to rush for over 6,000 yards in a three-year span – and possesses the strength and field vision consistent with the NFL’s most successful running backs. There is some concern about the amount of carries he took in college and whether that will hurt his durability, but his explosiveness and physicality give him one of the highest ceilings of any skill player in the draft.
Fifth-round selection Jacob Eason certainly looks the part of a future NFL starting quarterback – the Washington product stands 6ft 6in and has excellent arm strength – but must overcome the streaky tendencies that affected his 2019 season. He won’t play next year, but head coach Frank Reich may work to groom him as Indianapolis’s future starting QB.
Green Bay Packers: It’s impossible to anoint any true “losers” before the drafted players begin their NFL careers, but Green Bay’s selections were extremely confusing for a team looking to win a title while the 36-year-old Aaron Rodgers is still one of the game’s best players. Widely expected to pick one of the many elite receivers in the draft, general manager Brian Gutekunst instead traded up from pick No 30 to select Utah State QB Jordan Love, who the team presumably expect to replace Rodgers in two or three years. In the second round, Gutekunst and coach Matt LaFleur drafted bruising running back AJ Dillon even though the Packers already have two proven rushers in Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Perhaps the front office expects Jones and Williams to leave town once they become free agents after next season, but it was still odd to see Green Bay spend their top two picks on positions they didn’t need to address.
Any angry Packers fan should read this 2012 assessment of the Seattle Seahawks draft– one that calls Russell Wilson “the worst pick in the entire draft” – before declaring this draft a failure. Even so, there doesn’t appear to be a player besides third-round tight end Josiah Deguara who looks primed to make an impact in 2020.
Las Vegas Raiders: The Raiders maintained their eccentric draft-day tendencies with a host of confusing selections despite holding two first-round picks. Speedy Alabama receiver Henry Ruggs was one of the three elite players at the position (along with Lamb and Jerry Jeudy) but considered the least polished of the three. It was a forgivable selection, but few thought that Ruggs would be the first of a historically deep receiver class off the board.
It was eight picks after Ruggs when the Raiders stumped anybody who follows the draft: defensive back Damon Arnette was a strong defender on a loaded Ohio State defense, but most draftniks didn’t have him as a first-round player. Time will tell if Arnette becomes one of the better players on the Raiders secondary, but Mayock probably could have traded the 19th overall pick and stockpiled assets instead of spending it on a player nobody valued highly.
While the Raiders are always one of the most entertaining teams to follow on draft day, their inconsistency remains the only consistent thing about them.
Denver Broncos: Team president John Elway clearly wanted to supply new starting quarterback Drew Lock with weapons, which explains his selection of receivers Jerry Jeudy and KJ Hamler with Denver’s first two picks. The problem is that he didn’t do much to assure that Lock will be properly protected and given adequate time to get the ball to his new studs. While Elway drafted his center of the future in LSU’s Lloyd Cushenberry, Denver didn’t select an offensive tackle. That means the inconsistent, penalty-prone Garett Bolles will likely be the starting left tackle in Week 1.