Top SEC storylines for tonight's unprecedented opening round of the 2020 NFL Draft
Get ready for a strange NFL Draft.
That’s the only thing I can say with certainty ahead of the 1st round, which is set to begin tonight at 8 p.m. ET. Due to COVID-19, this will be a draft unlike any other. We won’t have players walking across a stage to greet the commissioner, nor will there be an audience filled with dudes wearing NFL helmets.
Instead, we’ll have a virtual draft. All picks will be made online. You know, assuming that they’ve got the system figured out in time.
As weird as it’ll be, it is at least a live sporting event that we’ll all get to watch. That’s not something we should complain about.
Here are the top SEC storylines for Round 1:
Joe Burrow’s weird, anticlimactic No. 1 overall announcement
Roger Goodell is going to announce Burrow as the No. 1 overall pick … from his basement. What strange times we’re living in. There won’t be any boos as he makes his way to the stage because there isn’t a stage and there aren’t fans. Maybe Goodell’s feed will lag a bit? Who knows. This is all going to look so strange, and it’s Burrow who will forever be known as the No. 1 pick in this weird draft.
That’s my way of saying, no, I don’t think the Bengals will pull any shenanigans and trade the pick. They’ll draft their Ohio kid and give him the keys to the franchise. There will be riots in the streets if they don’t.
But perhaps it’s fitting that there isn’t expected to be any drama ahead of this unprecedented announcement of a No. 1 overall pick. When we YouTube this draft 15 years from now, we’ll all be like, “oh, that’s right. I forgot that was the Coronavirus draft. Weird.”
Javon Kinlaw’s mysterious landing spot
If you gave me a list of every SEC player projected to go in the 1st round, I could probably pinpoint a 7-pick range that they’ll end up with some confidence. For example, Jerry Jeudy should come off the board somewhere in the 9-15 range. K’Lavon Chaisson? I’d say somewhere between 16-22.
Javon Kinlaw? I have no idea. The South Carolina standout is a physical freak at the defensive tackle position. That much we know from the last couple of years:
Lot of talk about a QB slipping to the #Patriots, but one the drafts top defensive players falling seems like a good possibility as well.
One of those potential fallers is Javon Kinlaw. Incredible upper-body strength, hand power, first step makes for a ferocious power-rusher. pic.twitter.com/FA6rxEQ2Nf
— Evan Lazar (@ezlazar) April 20, 2020
There have been rumblings that teams are every bit as high on him as they are Derrick Brown. Could that move Kinlaw up to a team like Jacksonville at No. 9? Or in a draft in which not as many teams need an interior defensive lineman, could he fall to the Vikings at No. 25? I honestly don’t know.
The projections for Kinlaw are a bit all over the place. The expectation is that in a year in which so many of those pre-draft meetings were canceled because of travel restrictions, there won’t be as much groupthink among NFL teams. That also prevented team doctors from getting full evaluations, which seemed important for Kinlaw given his injury the last couple of years. Kinlaw feels like the guy who could be a top-10 pick for some and a fringe 1st-rounder for others.
In other words, where he winds up is anyone’s guess.
What in the world happens with Tua Tagovailoa?
It’s the single most intriguing draft storyline. That’s partially because of how good he was in college, and partially because of the rare injury he’s still working his way back from.
Do I believe part of that intrigue has been manufactured? Yes. My gut reaction to all of the anti-Tagovailoa news the last few weeks — the sub-par Wonderlic, the increased injury concerns, 3 teams reportedly removing him off the board, etc. — was that the Dolphins were at the root of it. If and when the Dolphins take Tagovailoa — or trade up to No. 3 to get him — we’ll all have the same collective thought.
Nice smokescreen, Miami.
Now, there could still be some truth to the rumors that the Patriots are finding a way to move up to get him. For all we know, several teams are pulling strings to get into the top 10 to land the Alabama star.
Here’s the thing, though. Nothing has changed as it relates to Tagovailoa’s health. The same injury questions are going to be there that we knew about 5 months ago. It doesn’t matter what Tagovailoa’s doctors say, nor should teams suddenly be convinced to draft him if he posts an Instagram video. Unless we see a video of Tagovailoa bouncing back on his feet after getting sacked by multiple 300-pound dudes (I realize that isn’t happening), nothing can truly simulate the biggest question mark facing his future.
If Tagovailoa does somehow slip past the Dolphins at No. 5, well, I’ll eat some crow. And along with the rest of the football world, I’ll get some popcorn because that’s when this will really get interesting.
Alabama and LSU pursue Round 1 history
Heads up, 2004 Miami draft class. Alabama and LSU are in position to tie the record with 6 first-round picks apiece. That’s by no means a guarantee to happen.
Based on all the mocks, each team seems to have 4 players who look like locks to come off the board on Night 1.
Alabama’s perceived 1st-round locks are:
- QB Tua Tagovailoa
- OT Jedrick Wills
- WR Jerry Jeudy
- WR Henry Ruggs III
Xavier McKinney and Trevon Diggs could both easily land in Round 1, as well. Peter King has all 6 of those Alabama players coming off the board in the 1st round, so that’s certainly on the table. We’ve seen Alabama have 4 players draft in the 1st round 4 times in the Nick Saban era, so at the very least, a program record could be on the horizon.
As for LSU, it’ll take everything going right to hit 6 with the majority of that talent expected to come in the latter half of the 1st round.
LSU’s perceived 1st-round locks are:
- QB Joe Burrow
- OLB K’Lavon Chaisson
- WR Justin Jefferson
- CB Kristian Fulton
Grant Delpit and Patrick Queen have been in their fair share of mock drafts, as well. And while I don’t think Clyde Edwards-Helaire will sneak into the 1st round, he seems to be in the 2nd round of every mock draft I can find.
Would I bet on LSU hitting this? No, just because it would be such an unprecedented feat. There are reports that Diggs and Delpit could both be slipping, which is essentially all it would take to prevent each school from tying Miami.
Is it a smokescreen? Perhaps, but there’s a reason we haven’t seen this happen in the 15 drafts since Miami made history. It’s incredibly difficult.
Who will be the out-of-nowhere 1st-round pick?
There’s always at least 1. That is, the guy who didn’t show up in any of the mock drafts, yet he someone gets picked in the 1st round. Think Rashaad Penny to the Seahawks in 2018. Daniel Jones had 1st-round buzz last year, but it was stunning when he went No. 6 overall to the Giants.
Who will be that guy? And will he come from the SEC? It’s difficult to predict a surprise, but maybe it’ll be someone like Justin Madubuike coming off the board in the middle of the 1st round, or perhaps the underrated Jordan Elliott gets picked in the early 20s. Maybe I overlooked the rising Lloyd Cushenberry in breaking down fringe-1st rounders from LSU.
I don’t know. At this point, Jake Fromm going in the 1st round would be considered a shock. The same could be said for Jalen Hurts, who has been projected as a Day 2 guy.
Expect the unexpected? In a weird year, sure, let’s get weird.
The SEC’s favorable shot at setting a Round 1 record
Thirteen is the number that the SEC is chasing. In 2006, the ACC had 12 players drafted in the 1st round, which the SEC tied in 2013 and 2017. So what are the odds that this is the year that the SEC has the best Round 1 flex? Fairly good.
Why? As of Tuesday afternoon, BetOnline has the over/under for SEC players drafted in the 1st round at 15.5. That’s crazy high. But it makes sense. As of Tuesday morning, King, Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay each had 15 SEC players in their latest mocks. Those are 3 respected minds who have been doing this for a long time.
Then again, it felt like this was going to happen last year. Does anyone remember how many picks the SEC had in Round 1? Nine. That’s it. As is always the case, this could come down to fringe-1st round guys like Delpit, Diggs, Noah Igbinoghene and D’Andre Swift.
History or not, the safest bet is that a whole bunch of SEC players will hear their names called from Goodell’s basement.