The 2020 NFL Draft may be the most anticipated sporting draft in recent memory due to every American sport being shutdown by the Coronavirus. Fans have been clamoring for live sports to come back in their lives, and the NFL Draft was the perfect solution to that.
There were no trades within the top 10, but there were still some surprise picks later on in the first round, which provided lots of entertainment. A few teams made significant progress in building for the future, while other teams may be looking back at the 2020 Draft with regret in a few years.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals
Arizona went into this draft holding the 8th overall pick. Most teams predicted that the Cardinals would either go with an offensive lineman or add even more talent to the wide receiver position by going with one of the top receivers in the draft.
One storyline that developed quickly at the top of the draft was Clemson LB Isaiah Simmons falling out of the top five. Simmons fell past the top 6 picks, which was not a total surprise, but the Panthers shocked a lot of people by selecting DT Derrick Brown. Most mock drafts had that happening, but Isaiah Simmons would have been the better choice by Carolina.
The Cardinals did not need to select Simmons, but they made the right choice by selecting the Clemson product, as he was the best talent on the board. All the top receivers were still on the board, and three of the top four offensive linemen were available as well, so Arizona could have gone in that direction, but they were smart and realized they could not pass on the supreme talent that is Isaiah Simmons.
Loser: Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders held the 12th and 19th overall selections going into the draft. They finished their 2019 campaign in Oakland with a 7-9 record, so it does seem the Raiders have a bright future in store for them in Las Vegas.
With the 12th pick in the draft, the Raiders went with Henry Ruggs as the first WR off the board. I initially thought this was a bad pick, but in retrospect, it worked out for the Raiders.
I did not view Henry Ruggs as the best receiver in this year’s draft, but Las Vegas clearly thought he was. If they waited to select the Alabama standout at pick 19, Ruggs most likely would have been gone.
If they also tried to trade back with say the Buccaneers or Falcons, there is a chance the 49ers or Broncos would have scooped up Ruggs, so this is not the selection that made Las Vegas the losers of the night. Their mistake came with the 19th pick.
Going into the draft, most draft experts ranked Ohio State CB Damon Arnette as a third round prospect with NFL analyst Daniel Jeremiah ranking Arnette as the 59th best prospect in the draft. Las Vegas shocked everyone by selecting the Ohio State DB with the 19th overall pick.
This is a bad pick because Arnette would have been available in the second round and maybe even the third round. Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock may think highly of Arnette, but they surely could have gotten him later in the draft. LB Kenneth Murray was still on the board at 19, which meant the Raiders could have filled a hole at the linebacker position and waited to address the secondary.
The only defense you could make for this pick is that the Raiders do not currently hold a second round pick in this year’s draft. Maybe they thought Arnette would not have been available by the time they picked in the third round, but the Raiders could have traded back from 19 or used some of their other picks to trade into the second round.
The Raiders left a lot of value on the table by selecting Arnette this high, and it could come back to bite them when the 2020 season comes around.
Winner: New York Jets
The New York Jets finished the 2019 season with a 7-9 record that slotted them into the 11th overall pick in the draft. Most fans were hoping the Jets would select a wide receiver, and it looked like that could have become a reality as no receiver was selected ahead of the Jets. Henry Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, and CeeDee Lamb were all available for the Jets, but they made the right decision by passing on a receiver.
The more pressing need for the Jets was an offensive tackle, and they filled that void by selecting Mekhi Becton. Drafting a WR is the more flashy pick, but drafting a receiver would be useless as the Jets offensive line would not give QB Sam Darnold enough time to target the receiver.
Mekhi Becton will keep Darnold upright and allow him more time to make the right decision. This should also get Le’Veon Bell more involved, which is a priority considering he is on the books for $52 million. The Jets could have had any receiver they wanted at 11, but this is still a deep WR class, so there will be quality WRs available in the second and third round.
The only issue that could arise with this selection is who the Jets selected. The Jets decided to go with Mekhi Becton over Tristan Wirfs, so time will tell if NYJ picked the right player, but they certainly went with the right position.
Loser: San Francisco 49ers
This may seem like a surprise, but the 49ers are losers of day one because they did not accomplish what they wanted to do. San Francisco entered the draft with a total of 7 picks with none of those coming in the 2nd-4th rounds.
They held the 13th overall selection, acquired from the Colts, and the 31st overall selection. The 49ers were expected to trade back from the 13th pick and possibly do the same with the 31st pick.
This plan did not totally come to fruition as the 49ers traded the 13th overall pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which only moved San Francisco back one selection. The 49ers acquired a 4th round pick in order to move back one spot.
Instead of trading back further to acquire more picks, the 49ers stood pat at 14 and selected DL Javon Kinlaw. Even though San Fran just traded away Buckner, they did not need to find his replacement this high in the draft. Ross Blacklock is still on the board going into the second round, so the 49ers could have traded back further in the draft to select the TCU product.
The night got worse for the 49ers, as instead of trading back from 31, they decided to trade up to the 25th selection. In order to acquire Minnesota’s first round selection, San Francisco gave up the 31st pick, the 4th they acquired from Tampa Bay, and a 5th round pick.
The 49ers filled a much needed void at WR by selecting the talented Brandon Aiyuk, but San Francisco is currently left with only three picks in this year’s draft, and none of those selections come on day two of the draft.
If the 49ers stand pat with their fifth, sixth, and seventh round selections, they will only make five selections in the 2020 draft. Two of those selections did come in the first round, but making that few of picks sets a franchise up for disaster down the line.
The right move for the 49ers would have been to move further back from the 13th selection and to not shed even more picks by trading up in the draft.