NFL Draft 2020: Grading the first-round picks
Per usual, the first round of the NFL Draft saw it’s fair share of excellent picks and questionable selections, and we’ve provided grades for each of those draft picks below:
1. Cincinnati Bengals: QB Joe Burrow, A
This pick has basically been locked in for months, and you can’t blame the Bengals for skipping Chase Young in favor of a potential franchise quarterback. Still, the team with the top pick would ideally select the top player. Regardless of the circumstances, that won’t be the case in Cincinnati.
2. Washington Redskins: DE Chase Young, A+
Speaking of the top player in the NFL Draft, Young rightfully earned that honor following a standout season at Ohio State. Young could follow the path of last year’s #2 pick, Nick Bosa, and immediately establish himself as a DPOY contender. This was a no-brainer for Washington, but they still get top marks.
3. Detroit Lions: CB Jeffrey Okudah, A
The Lions have a number of holes on their team, so they really couldn’t go wrong with any of the top prospects. Okudah is far and away the best player at his position, and that’s especially notable considering the lack of top-end cornerback depth in the draft.
4. New York Giants: OT Andrew Thomas, B
Barring a trade, the Giants were always taking an offensive lineman. They landed on the Georgia product, who’s versatile, can start immediately, and has a high floor. However, he doesn’t have the elite upside of some of the other prospects at his position.
5. Miami Dolphins: QB Tua Tagovailoa, A+
The ceiling is undeniable, and the reward absolutely outweighs the risk. It’s a bit surprising that the methodical Dolphins front office didn’t play it safe with an offensive lineman, but they clearly valued Tua’s upside. That was a good choice.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: QB Justin Herbert, B+
The Chargers got their future quarterback without having to trade up, which is always a plus. On the flip side, you could argue that the Chargers should have opted for Simmons/Brown/lineman, bottomed out, and made a run at QB Trevor Lawrence in 2021.
7. Carolina Panthers: DT Derrick Brown, B+
The Panthers seem set with the offensive core, so it’s no surprise they opted for a defensive pick. Brown was arguably the best player left on the board, but you have to wonder if his upside is as high as Simmons’.
8. Arizona Cardinals: LB Isaiah Simmons, A
The Cardinals could have taken a lineman to protect last year’s top pick, Kyler Murray. However, Simmons transcends team needs; if there’s any defensive prospect (outside of Young) with DPOY potential, it’s the Clemson product.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB C.J. Henderson, B
The Jaguars did a nice job of not being tempted by any of the top receiver prospects (they’ve devoted enough resources to that position). They also did a nice job of filling a hole at a scarce draft position. Kinlaw still would have been the better pick.
10. Cleveland Browns: OT Jedrick Wills Jr., B+
The Browns desperately needed help on their offensive line, and they got a good one in in Wills. The Alabama product is arguably the best offensive lineman in the draft, but you’ve got to wonder if the Browns will regret the upside of Becton.
11. New York Jets: OT Mekhi Becton, A+
Becton is an absolute freak, and he offers elite size, speed, and strength. He’s got the highest upside of any offensive lineman in the draft, and a “flagged” drug test does nothing to lower his ceiling.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: WR Henry Ruggs III, B
The Raiders needed a receiver, and they had their pick of the litter at #12. Instead of opting for more highly-touted prospects like Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb, the front office chose Ruggs. The prospect has the intangibles, but does he have the skill to warrant being the first receiver off the board?
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Tristan Wirfs, B
The Buccaneers were looking for a lineman to protect Tom Brady, and they snagged the best-remaining top-tier lineman. Still, you’ve got to wonder if the 49ers were ever not going to take Javon Kinlaw, and a fourth-rounder is a big asking price to move up one single spot. We like Wirfs, but we also think the Bucs played themselves.
14. San Francisco 49ers: DT Javon Kinlaw, A-
The 49ers replaced DeForest Buckner (who they originally used to acquire the #13 pick) with the best-remaining defender. They get extra points for picking up an extra fourth-rounder.
15. Denver Broncos: WR Jerry Jeudy, A
In many mock drafts, it looked like the Broncos would have to settle for whoever was left over among the top receiver prospects. Instead, they landed arguably the best wideout in the draft, and it didn’t even require a trade.
16. Atlanta Falcons: CB A.J. Terrell, B-
Sure, the Falcons needed help at cornerback, and the draft hasn’t been lauded for its cornerback depth. Still, they reached a bit for Terrell, and they could have opted for a superior prospect that also fills a need (specifically defensive end K’Lavon Chaisson or linebackers Patrick Queen and Kenneth Murray).
17. Dallas Cowboys: WR CeeDee Lamb, B
Did the Cowboys really need a receiver? They paid Amari Cooper a boatload of money this offseason, and Michael Gallup had a 1,000-yard season. Lamb’s talent is undeniable, so we’re not going to be too critical if Dallas believed the wideout is too good to pass up. Plus, Dallas kept Lamb out of Philly.
18. Miami Dolphins: OT Austin Jackson, C+
The Dolphins have holes up and down their roster, and they’re loaded with draft picks. The team would have had plenty of opportunities to invest in their offensive line, and they left superior linemen on the board.
19. Las Vegas Raiders: CB Damon Arnette, C
As we’ve mentioned several times, the cornerback depth in this year’s draft is lacking. Logically, when the top-tier talent at a specific position is off the board, you’d assume a front office would pivot to another position. Instead, the Raiders decided to reach for a projected second-rounder.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE K’Lavon Chaisson, A-
The Jaguars needed some reinforcement on their defensive line, and they certainly got that in Chaisson. The LSU product is arguably the second-best pass rusher in the draft, and he was easily the best defender left on the board.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Jalen Reagor, C-
Yes, the Eagles needed a receiver. No, they didn’t need to reach for Reagor. One of the top-tier receivers, Justin Jefferson, was still on the board. Instead, they opted for a player they probably could have pursued in the second round.
22. Minnesota Vikings: WR Justin Jefferson, A
The Vikings had a major hole in their offense after trading Stefon Diggs, and they lucked out by seeing Jefferson fall all the way to #22. The LSU star may lack the upside of Jeudy or Lamb, but the Vikings still made the right pick.
23. Los Angeles Chargers: LB Kenneth Murray, A-
Murray could have been taken back in the teens, so the Chargers must be happy that they managed to snag the Oklahoma linebacker. Sure, they gave up a third-rounder to move up 14 spots, but they managed to snag one of the best defenders in the whole draft.
24. New Orleans Saints: C Cesar Ruiz, B+
The Saints could certainly use a lineman, and Ruiz is versatile enough to plug in at either center or guard. While the Michigan product has a high floor, New Orleans still may find themselves regretting skipping Ezra Cleveland or Josh Jones.
25. San Francisco 49ers: WR Brandon Aiyuk, C-
The 49ers were one of the first teams to take a receiver in both 2019 (Deebo Samuel) and 2018 (Dante Pettis). They did it again in 2020, but this time, they missed out on one of the top-four wideouts. To make matters worse, they had to trade up for one of the second-tier receivers.
26. Green Bay Packers: QB Jordan Love, B-
The Packers have their eventual replacement for Aaron Rodgers, but did they need to find their future quarterback in 2020? Sure, Love could conceivably follow the same path as the QB he’ll now be backing up, and there’s a giant drop-off at the position after the Utah State product. However, you’ve got to wonder if the Packers are unnecessarily creating a QB controversy by trading up for Love.
27. Seattle Seahawks: LB Jordyn Brooks, C+
It’s tough to question the Seahawks after they’ve hit on so many defensive players over the years. Still, it’s a bit surprising that they settled on the Texas Tech linebacker with their first-round pick. There were several superior linebackers still on the board, and the Seahawks also could have opted for a defensive back or offensive lineman.
28. Baltimore Ravens: LB Patrick Queen, B+
The Ravens needed a linebacker, and they filled that hole by selecting the best remaining player at the position. While the LSU product may be a bit undersized, he’ll quickly become a fan favorite thanks to his tenacity and hustle.
29. Tennessee Titans: OT Isaiah Wilson, B+
While the Titans may have been eyeing a linebacker like Murray or Queen, they still landed on their feet with Wilson. While the Georgia product is clearly a step behind the top-tier lineman prospects, he still deserved to be a late first-rounder or early second-rounder.
30. Miami Dolphins: CB Noah Igbinoghene, C
If there’s any position that the Dolphins don’t need reinforcement at, it’s cornerback. The team handed out a big contract to Byron Jones, and they’re still rostering Xavien Howard. While Igbinoghene should contribute as a nickel corner, the Dolphins might regret not opting for someone like Xavier McKinney or Ezra Cleveland.
31. Minnesota Vikings: CB Jeff Gladney, B-
If it wasn’t for knee issues, Gladney may have found himself taken earlier in the first round. The Vikings also needed a cornerback heading into the draft. Of course, they also needed a safety, and they may have been better off opting for Xavier McKinney instead of slightly reaching for Gladney.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, B
Teams seem to be shying away from first-round running backs, and the LSU product wasn’t even the best prospect at his position. However, the Chiefs like to run, and Edwards-Helaire is a reliable receiver. The rookie should have an immediate role in Kansas City.