It has been a very quiet last month for sports. With many states under stay-at-home orders — and all major sports across the country suspended for the foreseeable future — many fans clamored for a taste of sports to distract them from the bleak reality that most Americans are experiencing.
Enter the 2020 iteration of the National Football League (NFL) Draft. What was originally slated to be an extravagant affair in Paradise, Nevada was forced to move to a virtual format that saw NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announcing the picks from the basement of his Bronxville, New York apartment.
The change in format felt strange to many onlookers but gave draftees the opportunity to celebrate the occasion with their friends and families from the comfort of their homes. The league sent production materials to many of the top-ranked players to film the players and their families as they awaited a phone call from an NFL team that desired their services. Rather than the very formalized production of the typical draft, fans got an inside look at the homes of incoming players along with coaches and team personnel as they worked to improve their rosters with young talent.
Despite the change in format and the uncertainty facing the 2020 NFL season, several teams put themselves in position to improve whenever their squad takes the field next, while some organizations made some questionable decisions that sent their fans racing to Twitter to try and prove their aptitude at evaluating collegiate talent.
The Baltimore Ravens continued to prove why they are one of the best organizations at drafting players year after year. With six picks in the first three rounds, the Ravens filled a ton of their needs, while also strengthening their already solid lineup.
Inside linebacker Patrick Queen from Louisiana State University is likely to immediately be thrust into the starting lineup and may be joined in the middle by the third-round selection Malik Harrison out of Ohio State University. Fellow OSU Buckeye and running back J.K. Dobbins adds another dimension to a ground attack that drove many opposing defenses crazy last season. Tyre Phillips out of Mississippi State University is a promising candidate to replace the retiring Marshal Yanda.
The Dallas Cowboys also accomplished a great deal with their selections. CeeDee Lamb out of the University of Oklahoma gives quarterback Dak Prescott another dynamic receiving threat to pair with Amari Cooper and forces defenses to spend more men covering the Dallas wideouts and less time in the box to stuff Ezekiel Elliott. Dallas also added a pair of stellar cornerbacks in Trevon Diggs from the University of Alabama and Reggie Robinson II from the University of Tulsa and acquired defensive tackle Neville Gallimore from Oklahoma, all of whom are slated to heavily contribute this season.
With the first pick in the draft, nobody was surprised that the Cincinnati Bengals selected Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow. The LSU product was a dominant force last season, leading the Tigers to a national championship win and racking up video game-like numbers along the way. Cincy has relied on Andy Dalton to lead the team since 2011, but after a dismal 2-14 season with one of the worst offenses in football, the Bengals felt that a change at the most important position in football was necessary for the organization to rebound.
Burrow may not be immediately placed into the starting role, but whoever is throwing the ball for the Bengals has a new target on the outside in the form of Tee Higgins from Clemson University. Logan Wilson, an inside linebacker from the University of Wyoming, received the call from the Bengals at the beginning of the third round and looks to fill the void left by the departure of Nick Virgil, and the acquisition of outside linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither from Appalachian State provides another pass rusher with solid coverage skills.
The Philadelphia Eagles were all over the board with their draft choices. Their first round selection, wide receiver Jalen Reagor out of Texas Christian University, is a rangy receiver with good speed that can line up in the slot or on the outside to give the Eagles’ play callers plenty of options to use him. However, they sent shockwaves throughout the NFL when they followed up with quarterback Jalen Hurts in the second round.
Hurts was a Heisman Trophy finalist last season at the University of Oklahoma last season and expected to be drafted fairly high in the draft, but the Eagles recently secured starting quarterback Carson Wentz through the 2024 season with a $128 million contract and didn’t need to take a quarterback so early in the draft. Wentz has been injury-prone in the past, but the Eagles had much bigger holes to fill and could have benefited from another wide receiver or a linebacker.
Not to be outdone, the Green Bay Packers also made a curious selection at the quarterback position. Even with future hall of famer Aaron Rodgers under center, the Packers decided to expend the 26-overall pick on quarterback Jordan Love from Utah State University. Rodgers apparently asked the higher-ups in the Packers organization for more offensive weaponry to work with in this draft, but likely was not expecting to receive an heir-apparent in the first round.
Love displayed flashes of brilliance as an Aggie that made him worthy of the first round, but the Packers likely have at least a few more years of elite-level Rodgers before he begins to taper off at the hands of Father Time. It’s presumed Love will backup Rodgers as the Green Bay coaching staff attempts to mold him into their next franchise quarterback, but it’s shocking that the Packers elected to pull the trigger on another quarterback now rather than surround Rodgers with one of the many talented receivers in this draft class to throw to while he’s still at the top of his game.
Green Bay ended up not drafting any receivers but did add running back AJ Dillon out of Boston College to complement Aaron Jones and tight end Josiah Deguara out of the University of Cincinnati to pair with Jace Sternberger. While the two will contribute this year, it’s probable that they are meant to provide depth rather than immediate impact.
With just five picks in the draft, the Houston Texans had limited opportunities after dealing many of their high draft picks to acquire offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, wide receiver Brandin Cooks, cornerback Gareon Conley and running back Duke Johnson. The additions do not necessarily make up for the losses of wide receiver Deandre Hopkins and defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who the Texans traded away to get back some draft picks, and Houston’s draft didn’t do much to help that feeling for fans.
Defensive tackle Ross Blacklock out of TCU at pick 40 was a solid selection, but defensive end Jonathan Greenard out of the University of Florida will not make fans forget about the lack of Clowney, and it’s unlikely that the other three selections will add much to the Texans’ roster.
Although this year’s iteration of the draft was exceptionally unique due to the coronavirus, it provided a much-needed outlet for fans who were inevitably excited or let down to watch their favorite team select the next wave of talent. While analysts can predict the future of these prospects as much as they desire, only time will tell which organizations truly won the 2020 NFL Draft.