10 takeaways from the 2020 NFL Draft
I’m gonna be honest with y’all. I’m sad it’s over.
For the first time in my life, I didn’t want the NFL Draft to end. In my defense, we’re talking about something that lasts roughly 15 hours, and for the non-NFL diehards, it’s a bit much. Don’t get me wrong. It’s awesome for these kids, and seeing some of these raw moments make the draft special. But again, it’s usually a 15-hour deal that ends with dudes we’ve never heard of.
This year, however, this was a different story. Live sports entertainment was great. It was weird at times, but it was great. I could’ve watched another 7 hours tomorrow and not complained (my wife disagrees with that).
There were plenty of takeaways from the weekend, and believe it or not, they weren’t all based on the SEC’s domination (the SEC led the way with 63 draft picks which marked the 14th consecutive year it boasted the most draft picks). Ok, the was some of them.
Here are the 10 things I took away from the historic, unprecedented draft:
1. I’m glad I didn’t do a way-too-early mock draft
To be clear, my job isn’t to predict how college players will be valued at the next level. That’s not my skill set. I’m not asked to do way-too-early mock drafts that are released 362 days before the upcoming mock draft like Todd McShay.
My way-too-early mock draft would’ve been awful. Even as a Joe Burrow defender during 2018, there’s no chance I would’ve had him in a first-round mock, nor would I have given that type of love to his teammate Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who became my favorite player to watch in 2019.
Speaking of LSU, I also would’ve bet the farm on Grant Delpit being a top-10 pick. Instead, the Jim Thorpe Award winner was picked apart for some less-than-stellar film on his tackling, which dropped him to the middle of the 2nd round to the Browns.
This quote was excellent:
A reporter asked Grant Delpit about his ankle injury in 2019 and how it affected his tackling.
“I’m so tired of hearing that I can’t tackle. I might tackle you for asking that question.”
That’s my 7. pic.twitter.com/StEYr8K7nI
— Cody Worsham (@CodyWorsham) April 25, 2020
I don’t blame him.
Ok, so if I would’ve lost the farm betting on Delpit as a top-10 pick, I would’ve lost the shirt off my back on this development — Jalen Hurts was drafted multiple rounds before Jake Fromm. I still can’t fully comprehend that as someone who had working eyeballs during the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship.
But over 2 years later, NFL executives saw that Hurts worked diligently to improve as a passer. He made himself some money by transferring to Oklahoma instead of backing up Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts deserves all the credit in the world for that. Whether he’s used in a 2-quarterback system or not, I’m fully anticipating Carson Wentz going down in Week 8, which prompts Hurts to step in, lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl and get a Disney movie made about his life that’ll come out in 2024.
Then again, my prospect-related predictions aren’t exactly a lock.
2. Let’s talk about Jake Fromm’s fall
No, I don’t want you to tell me that you knew he’d be a 5th-round pick or that he was an idiot to leave for the NFL. Why did Fromm fall so far?
That’s a complicated answer. The obvious reasons that you’ve heard 100 times already was the arm strength concerns and the regression in 2020. Throwing side-by-side with fellow draft faller and former teammate Jacob Eason at the combine didn’t do him any favors. Clearly.
It also didn’t help that Fromm, who routinely blows people away with his understanding of offensive concepts and his personality, didn’t get to meet with as many teams in person because of the travel limitations. That was the biggest thing in his favor, and instead of quieting some of the issues that played out at the combine, Fromm didn’t get to use that to his advantage.
Ok, now let’s address the elephant in the room. Why did he leave if he was only a 5th round pick?
Well, I can guarantee you Fromm didn’t anticipate that. Nobody really thought he’d be picked No. 167, which was 4 picks later than Aaron Murray. Was Murray at the root of why Fromm could’ve left? It’s not crazy to think that Fromm was desperate to avoid the continued Murray comps as a 4-year starter who couldn’t win the big game and was a far better college quarterback than NFL prospect.
Was there any truth to the rumor that Fromm wouldn’t have started if he had stayed and that Jamie Newman would’ve replaced him? I can’t confirm that. I said in November that it felt like Fromm needed to sit down with Kirby Smart and say, “look, get a new offensive coordinator with a new system and let’s try to do what 2019 LSU did, and I’ll stay.”
That didn’t happen. Fromm bet on himself, and so far, that doesn’t look like it’ll pay off.
But while I’m certainly in the minority on this, I’m not giving up on his next-level potential. I don’t think he’s Murray 2.0 because of how he understands going through his progressions, nor do I believe that 166 players and 7 quarterbacks are better than him. I’m not ruling out the idea of him becoming an NFL starter, either. Josh Allen might’ve been a first-round pick, but the guy who averaged 6.6 yards per attempt and was sacked 38 times last year is by no means a lock to keep that job.
I suppose that’s my way of saying that I’m not selling my Fromm stock until I see him fail at the next level.
3. Picks that made me feel good inside
Some of these are based on fit and others are based on a player I liked who I’m glad was drafted high. I just thought, “good for them. I like that.”
Here’s that totally subjective list:
- Tua Tagovailoa to the Dolphins
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire to the Chiefs
- Darrell Taylor to the Seahawks
- Van Jefferson to the Rams
- Ke’Shawn Vaughn to the Buccaneers
- Albert Okwuegbunam to the Broncos
I already explained my love for Tagovailoa and Edwards-Helaire, so I’ll instead focus on the non-first round guys.
Taylor going in the 2nd round to a franchise with a clue was a welcome sight because he was someone who totally bought into Jeremy Pruitt’s system the last 2 years, and became one of the most underrated players in the SEC.
Jefferson getting picked in the 2nd round by Sean McVay despite that foot injury was a feel-good moment because he was loved within that Florida program, and he came back to school to become a more complete receiver (and even better route-runner), which he was.
Vaughn getting picked in the 3rd round by the Bucs made me smile because it seemed like people forgot about how special of a player he was as a senior on that awful Vanderbilt team — he had over 2,700 yards from scrimmage and 24 touchdowns in the SEC the last 2 years — and now, he’ll get a legitimate chance to get a starting job collecting handoffs from Tom Brady.
Okwuegbunam getting picked in the 4th round by the Broncos, well, that speaks for itself. He’ll reunite with Drew Lock in Denver. In fact, it made me wonder what that text conversation with Lock and John Elway was like, so I decided to play it out:
LOCK: If my man Albert O is still there on Day 3, we HAVE to go get him.
ELWAY: But Drew, we’ve got 36 tight ends on our roster because that’s all we draft in the middle rounds.
LOCK: And did I tell you to draft any of those guys?
ELWAY: Well, no.
LOCK: And didn’t you say that we’d draft all the weapons I’d ever need?
ELWAY: Well, yeah.
LOCK: So what’s the deal?
ELWAY: The deal is I already traded for Melvin Gordon, and in the last 2 days, I drafted Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler. Plus, we already got a promising tight end because I drafted Noah Fant in the 1st round last year …
LOCK: And I love you for doing that. I just feel like you still owe me one for having Vic Fangio as our head coach.
ELWAY: Say no more, fam!
Ok, I got a little too cute there. Elway definitely doesn’t say “fam.”
But see, I told you they definitely talked before the pick!
— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) April 25, 2020
4. I like that there’s a plan for Lynn Bowden
My fear with the Kentucky, er, football player (?) was that he was going to fall into Day 3 and a team intrigued by his talent would take him in Round 4 or 5, but that they wouldn’t have a plan for him. The best case scenario was that he was drafted on Day 2 to a team with an offensive mind who had a vision for him from the jump. That’s exactly what happened.
After Bowden was picked by the Raiders, general manager Mike Mayock said that the plan is to have Bowden start as a running back and that he could do a variety of things once he masters that. Bowden, who led the SEC in rushing in 2019 after his mid-season switch to quarterback, is on board:
“I’m not set on one position. I just want to win games and championships,” Bowden said. “I’ll go wherever Coach Gruden wants me to go. He said he wants to do a lot of things with me and I’m ready to get on board.”
Why do I love that? Because as I’ve been saying in the entire pre-draft process, I wanted teams to think of Bowden as the ultimate hybrid. He’s more Deebo Samuel than Taysom Hill, in my opinion, but whatever the case, he’s a hybrid player who cannot be put into a box. There’s a reason the guy won the Paul Hornung Award as the most versatile player in America.
The fact that they got Bowden on Day 2 even though they drafted 2 other receivers in the first 3 rounds (Henry Ruggs and Bryan Edwards) suggests that they aren’t worried about where he fits on a depth chart. Good. They shouldn’t.
I’m not betting against Bowden, especially not after seeing where and when he was drafted.
5. The fallers I didn’t quite understand
I’m not saying these guys are perfect prospects who should’ve all been first-round picks. But these were the guys who I saw coming off the board much earlier than they did:
- Grant Delpit, No. 44 to Browns
- Trevon Diggs, No. 51 to Cowboys
- Kristian Fulton, No. 60 to Titans
- Justin Madubuike, No. 71 to Ravens
- Jordan Elliott, No. 88 to Browns
- Jon Greenard, No. 90 to Texans
- Jauan Jennings, No. 217 to 49ers
In addition to the questions about the tackling, the Delpit fall (as well as Xavier McKinney) seemed like it was partially because of what was valued in the first round. That is, cover guys and guys who can catch passes. We saw 6 receivers and 6 cornerbacks drafted in Round 1 compared to 0 safeties. In today’s NFL, an over-the-top hard-hitting safety isn’t valued like it once was.
So I guess I get that, but I don’t get why so many people forgot that Delpit is an uber-versatile playmaker who excelled for the vast majority of his LSU career.
Diggs and Fulton didn’t suffer from any sort of position perception issue. I was stunned that 6 corners went in the first round and neither of them were in that group. Like, Fulton had Pro Football Focus’ top coverage grade since the start of the 2018 season. There’s not much of a gap between him and C.J. Henderson, who went No. 9 overall.
You can’t convince me that 7 corners are better than Diggs. And the lengthy, proven Alabama senior was PFF’s highest-graded corner in press coverage in 2019. He was actually targeted by the by the Cowboys with their No. 17 pick, and he lasted until … No. 51? That’s value.
Madubuike and Elliott were in the “probably a first-rounder if they were on a better team” category. In terms of interior defensive linemen, I’m not convinced there were more than a couple players better than them in the draft. Elliott graded out as a better pass-rusher than Derrick Brown, and the freakishly talented Madubuike is probably going to be a run-stopping force and make a bunch of Pro Bowls with the Ravens.
Greenard was as valuable of a non-quarterback grad transfer as anyone in college football last year. He was such an ideal fit in Todd Grantham’s system as an edge-rusher, which is what he’ll be asked to do playing in Houston’s 3-4. Sure, he’s not the athletic freak of some of the edge-rushers picked ahead of him, but the film and production (31.5 tackles for loss in 24 games the last 2 years) should’ve gotten him into that Round 2 discussion.
And while I figured Jennings wouldn’t get picked until Day 3, I didn’t think he’d be sitting there in Round 7. The route-running and hands are next-level worthy. Oh, and he blocks (he’s the guy who flattens the middle linebacker):
Here is a completely random clip of Jauan Jennings sending some MLB to the afterlife.
10 days until Tennessee Football is back. pic.twitter.com/iJtyP2cOhT
— Power T Tape (@Power_T_Tape) August 21, 2019
Jennings didn’t exactly have the “disciplinary issues” with multiple coaching staffs as ESPN suggested, and he didn’t have the combine that some were hoping for, but the film should’ve warranted an earlier selection than that.
If any of these guys turn into All-Pro players, well, there will be a whole lot of teams kicking themselves … and at least one person saying “I told you so.” (I am that person.)
6. The risers I didn’t quite understand
I’m not saying these guys will be bad NFL players. But when they were picked, I thought to myself, “woah, already?”
- Henry Ruggs, No. 12 to Raiders
- Raekwon Davis, No. 56 to Dolphins
- Jabari Zuniga, No. 79 to Jets
- Logan Stenberg, No. 121 to Lions
Ruggs, as I explained the other day, was more about the fact that he went as the first receiver in a class that was absolutely loaded at the position. Jerry Jeudy made more sense as a future go-to receiver, if you ask me. I have some questions about taking someone that high who never had 800 receiving yards in such a dynamic passing offense.
This isn’t an Alabama thing, I promise. But no, I still don’t get why so many people continue to overhype Davis. I can’t tell you a single time when I’ve watched Alabama and thought “wow, Davis is taking over.” By comparison, Terrell Lewis played in a fraction of the games and I said that about him probably 4 different times. After Davis broke out in 2017, the guy had 8.5 tackles for loss and 2 sacks … in 2 years. And that guy was a 2nd-round pick? I didn’t get that.
Speaking of defensive linemen, Zuniga showed flashes of brilliance, and the combine certainly helped Zuniga, who dealt with plenty of injuries throughout 2019. But I didn’t think he should’ve been picked higher than teammate Jon Greenard as a mid-3rd round guy.
Stenberg was part of the reason that Bowden did what he did in 2019, yes, but he’s someone with limited experience as a pass-blocker and as Kentucky fans will tell you, he’s a holding penalty waiting to happen. In today’s pass-happy NFL, that seems less than ideal, especially when he’s an interior lineman tasked with protecting a quarterback on the wrong side of 30 in Matthew Stafford.
7. Pick your spots next time, ESPN
I get that we’re not dealing with normal circumstances. I don’t get why ESPN shoved all of those serious details about these prospects down our throats throughout the entire weekend.
No, Trey Wingo. I don’t need you to tell me about how this kid’s dad was in jail when he was 4 years old. Believe it or not, I didn’t need to hear about the murder rate in Youngstown, or how a player’s aunt died 6 years ago. Why did we need this for EVERY PLAYER?
The irony is that Wingo actually said “we’re trying to keep your spirits up.” Oh, really?
This was essentially a shot-for-shot remake of every pick:
— Chris Marler (@VerneFUNquist) April 25, 2020
My advice? Pick your spots. This felt like such a reach all weekend. If we’ve got a kid who just lost a parent 2 weeks ago, yeah, tell us about it. Javon Kinlaw overcame homelessness, sure, give us that note.
But man, as great of a job as this was from a production standpoint in atypical circumstances, that was a swing and a miss all weekend.
8. The 2019 season is always going to feel like a missed opportunity for Alabama, but context is important
I get it. People are going to say “Alabama had 4 of the top 15 picks, and they went to the Citrus Bowl?” This Alabama draft class was indeed loaded. Nine draft picks in the first 3 rounds is quite the feat. Here’s a year-by-year breakdown of the Crimson Tide’s draft picks in the first 3 rounds during the Nick Saban era:
- 2008 — 0
- 2009 — 4
- 2010 — 5
- 2011 — 4
- 2012 — 5
- 2013 — 4
- 2014 — 3
- 2015 — 3
- 2016 — 7
- 2017 — 9
- 2018 — 5
- 2019 — 5
- 2020 — 9
Yeah, go figure that this was the first season since 2010 that Alabama lost multiple regular season games. Everybody is going to look at that and say, “wow, wasted opportunity.” That’s understandable. It’s Alabama.
Context. We need context.
Those 9 players picked in the first 2 days all played a part in helping Alabama reach at least 1 national championship, and potentially 2. And everyone will ignore that before the Tagovailoa injury, Alabama lost 1 game to arguably the best team in college football history. That LSU team, by the way, had an even better draft than Alabama.
Will it frustrate Crimson Tide fans so see the fact that they had one of the best passing offenses in SEC history and they couldn’t make a New Year’s 6 Bowl? Absolutely, especially if you look at the 3 offensive skill players in the first half of Round 1.
But just understand that it’s not as simple as saying “Alabama wasted all that talent.”
9. People care about winning national championships apparently
LSU broke a program record for draft picks … before the end of the 3rd round. Ten picks in the first 3 rounds was incredibly impressive. That tied Ohio State.
They also tied 2004 Ohio State with the record (14) for most picks in a draft. That’ll be seen on LSU social media content for a long, long time. That’s what happens when you win a national title in such dominant fashion.
I thought this was at least worth bringing up because I remember being blown away by the 9 LSU underclassmen who declared early for the NFL Draft. Why does that happen? Guys want to cash in on the opportunity after getting on that stage. It’s hard to blame them when you see numbers like that.
Look at where these LSU underclassmen were picked:
- K’Lavon Chaisson, 1st round, No. 20 overall
- Justin Jefferson, 1st round, No. 22 overall
- Patrick Queen, 1st round, No. 28 overall
- Clyde Edwards-Helaire, 1st round, No. 32 overall
- Grant Delpit, 2nd round, No. 44 overall
- Lloyd Cushenberry, 3rd round, No. 84 overall
- Jacob Phillips, 3rd round, No. 97 overall
- Saahdiq Charles, 4th round, No. 108 overall
I mean, 8 underclassmen drafted in the first 108 picks is insane.
How many of those guys helped themselves by striking while the iron was hot? A lot. Jefferson, Queen, Edwards-Helaire and Cushenberry absolutely benefitted from the postseasons they had. You can’t criticize those guys for leaving early. Thaddeus Moss was the only LSU underclassman who you’d say was better suited to come back to school (he went undrafted).
But make no mistake about it, the year belonged to LSU, and so did the draft.
10. The SEC owns everyone, much to the chagrin of the “SEC bias” crowd
The SEC flexed at every point of this draft. Really.
Look at all of these draft feats:
- Set top 10 record (6)
- Set top 20 record (10)
- Set 1st round record (15)
- Set second-round record (25)
- Set third-round record (40)
No, the SEC’s 63 draft picks this year didn’t quite match last year’s record of 64 picks, but still. That’s quite the 2-year run. Oh, by the way, that was the 14th consecutive year in which the SEC led the way with the most draft picks.
Here was the breakdown of SEC draft picks by rounds:
- Round 1 — 15
- Round 2 —10
- Round 3 — 15
- Round 4 — 8
- Round 5 — 2
- Round 6 — 5
- Round 7 — 8
The early-round stuff was certainly more impressive, but it was a reminder that nobody is on the SEC’s level from a talent standpoint. It wasn’t all LSU or all Alabama, either. You had 13 of 14 SEC teams (excluding Ole Miss) land draft picks in the first 3 rounds. Goodness.
It was another rough weekend for the “SEC bias” crowd. But hey, at least we got a live sporting event.
That was a win for everyone.