The 2020 NFL draft is underway. Joe Burrow, unsurprisingly, is a Bengal. How many other quarterbacks will be taken in the first round? To help you make sense of all the Round 1 wheeling and dealing, we’ll offer Danny Kelly’s grades for each pick. Check back here throughout Thursday night as we continually update this post with each pick. Here we go!
1. Cincinnati Bengals: QB Joe Burrow, LSU
Burrow has been locked into this top spot for months, and the Bengals never seemed to waver on making him the new face of their franchise. There was no reason to, either: Cincy’s new quarterback rose from relative obscurity and took college football by storm in 2019, leading LSU to a national championship and winning the Heisman Trophy while throwing for 5,671 yards with 60 touchdowns and just six picks. Burrow has the makings of a future NFL star: He boasts incredible precision as a passer and plays with an ice-in-his-veins demeanor that’s invited Tom Brady comparisons―and while he’s certainly got a long way to go to back up that lofty praise, it won’t be too surprising if 10 years from now Burrow ends up as the defining player of this class.
Burrow doesn’t have a cannon for an arm and he’s on the slender slide, but he possesses the rare and highly-sought-after combination of pocket feel, downfield bravado, pinpoint ball placement, and innate improvisational skills. He graded out tops among all quarterbacks both under pressure and on tight-window passes last season, and he played his best ball in the biggest moments. The Bengals would be smart to install some (most?) of the schematic concepts Burrow excelled with at LSU last year to ease his transition to the pros, but he does find himself surrounded by what could be a strong supporting cast: A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and John Ross make a talented trio of pass catchers, and the team’s ground game is led by running back Joe Mixon. It also doesn’t hurt that Cincy’s top pick from last year, left tackle Jonah Williams, should get back onto the field in 2020 after missing his rookie season with a shoulder injury. Overall, it’s tough to find any fault with this pick.
2. Washington Redskins: Edge Chase Young, Ohio State
The Redskins likely could’ve secured a haul of picks by trading out of this spot, but they made the right choice to stay put to grab a potentially transformative player with the ability to change the complexion of the entire defense. Young is my top-ranked prospect in this draft, a game-wrecking force off the edge who should provide the same type of early impact we saw from Nick Bosa in San Francisco last season. The Buckeyes star boasts elite first-step explosiveness and plenty of power, able to threaten the edge and bend around the corner or counter back inside using a professional-level repertoire of pass-rush moves.
In the past two seasons, Young has tallied a combined 26 sacks, 35.5 tackles for a loss, eight pass deflections, and seven forced fumbles in 26 games—and he set a single-season Buckeyes record with 16.5 sacks in 2019 alone. Put him on a line next to Jonathan Allen, Da’Ron Payne, Matthew Ioannidis, Ryan Kerrigan, and Montez Sweat, and Washington’s going to be pretty damn formidable on that side of the ball.
3. Detroit Lions: CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State
The Lions didn’t hide their desire to trade down but apparently couldn’t find a deal to their liking. Instead, they took Okudah, the player most people had projected to go in this spot. The former Buckeye brings a scintillating blend of foot quickness, explosive speed, agility, and all-around playmaking talent. He’s got good size, is physical in press coverage, mirrors easily in man-to-man looks, and is measured and methodical in half-turn coverage. And importantly―particularly with Darius Slay now in Philadelphia―Okudah is a game-ready starter from day one and brings Pro Bowl potential early in his career. I’ve got to ding the Lions slightly for failing to secure a workable trade-back option (especially since they likely would’ve had a shot to land Okudah a few picks later), but it’s tough to fault them for grabbing one of the best players in this draft.
4. New York Giants: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia
It’s no surprise to see the Giants go with an offensive tackle here, but Thomas isn’t the one I expected them to take based on most of the mock drafts I’ve seen over the past few months. It’s easy to see why GM Dave Gettleman went this route, though: Thomas is a game-ready, day-one starter who plays with an understated combination of balance, bend, and power. The Outland Award semifinalist and Georgia team captain brings experience lining up at both left and right tackle; he started 15 games on the right as a true freshman before swapping over to the blind side for 26 starts in the past two seasons. He’s consistent and mirrors well in pass protection and has a bulldozer mentality in the ground game.
Thomas is my second-ranked tackle in this class, and the Giants passed on some premium talent—particularly Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons—but the former Bulldog should slot into the right tackle position from the jump and projects as the long-term starter on the blind side down the road. Thomas never got quite as much hype as the other top players at the position, but it wouldn’t be a big surprise if he were to end up the best of the bunch.
5. Miami Dolphins: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
The season-ending hip injury Tagovailoa suffered in November threatened to put his career in jeopardy and effectively took him out of the running to be the top pick (Burrow’s unbelievable season certainly didn’t help, either). But while the Dolphins surely weighed the risks around Tua’s long-term durability (he also suffered two serious ankle injuries at Alabama), the Crimson Tide signal-caller’s upside outweighed any future injury concerns. It’s obvious why: The southpaw leaves Tuscaloosa as the most efficient college passer of all time, finishing with the highest passer-efficiency rating (199.4) and yards-per-attempt average (10.9) ever, to go with an 87-to-11 touchdown to interception ratio. To put it into simpler terms, the dude tossed a touchdown on 12.7 percent of his passes, the highest rate for any passer in Division I history by a full two percentage points.
Tagovailoa reminds me of Drew Brees in the way he quickly processes what’s in front of him and accurately delivers the football, slicing and dicing opposing defenses before punctuating drives with deep-bomb end zone strikes. He’s a whiz in the RPO and play-action passing game, throws an eminently catchable ball to all three levels, and can even make plays with his feet. He plays with incredible poise and toughness and was roundly praised for his leadership skills.
Tua lacks elite arm strength, is undersized by traditional NFL standards, and comes with a legitimately worrisome injury history. But let’s get real: Even healthy first-round quarterbacks carry a heavy risk of crashing and burning, and Miami is betting on talent over any inherent risk of future injury. I respect and applaud that.
6. Los Angeles Chargers: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon
With Tagovailoa off the board, the Chargers roll with the quarterback they were rumored to have preferred the whole time. Herbert is a big, strong-armed, and athletic signal-caller who oozes upside … but far too often seemed underwhelming on tape. The four-year starter should be lauded for his ability to adapt to three different schemes under three separate staffs in his career at Oregon (Mark Helfrich’s spread offense, Willie Taggart’s Gulf Coast offense, and Mario Cristobal’s pistol offense), but he failed to take that elusive “next step” in his development that many expected from him in 2019. Herbert brings scintillating traits to the pros―he reminds me of the Giants’ Daniel Jones in a lot of ways, boasting a strong arm (he had a 94 mph fastball in high school, one scout told Sports Illustrated) and the wheels to pick up yards with his feet when things break down―but his accuracy was erratic and his aggressiveness seemed to come and go from game to game.
The Chargers are a nice landing spot for the former Duck; with a bridge quarterback in Tyrod Taylor in place, the team won’t have to rush him into action if he fails to impress early on. The team has a strong group of skill position players around their new quarterback as well, with Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Hunter Henry, and Austin Ekeler in the mix. But I don’t love the value here—the Chargers are passing on some blue-chip talent at this spot—and while Herbert does have a high ceiling as a passer, it’s his floor that worries me.
7. Carolina Panthers: DT Derrick Brown, Auburn
Brown is a big, physical interior defender who plays with a strong motor against both the run and the pass. He’s dominant against the ground game―he didn’t miss a tackle all year―and has an intriguing skill set to defend against the pass, boasting a quick first step and wrecking-ball power to disrupt the pocket. Brown brings positional versatility to the Panthers and can line up at nose tackle, 3-technique, or even on the edge depending on the situation. He finished with 12.5 tackles for loss in 2019, including four sacks, and notched four pass breakups and two forced fumbles.
Brown is a force on the interior, a high-floor early contributor who should play for a long time. But his true value at the next level will come down to the impact he can make as a pass rusher: I love his makeup and talent, but can he ever be a double-digit-sack player? That’s what you’d hope for in a top-10 pick―but I’m not sure that’s what the Panthers are getting here. With a handful of higher-graded players on my board available, I’ve got to ding Carolina a bit on value.
8. Arizona Cardinals: LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson
Simmons is a fascinating pick for the Cardinals. He’s one of my favorite players in the draft: an archetypal modern defender, with incredible positional and schematic versatility. He can line up pretty much everywhere in the back seven of a defense, from linebacker, safety, slot cornerback, or sometimes even on the edge as a situational rusher. He’s extraordinarily long at 6-foot-4 and with an absurd 81 7/8–inch wingspan, is super athletic, and is instinctive in his play. While most so-called hybrid defenders fall into a bucket of jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none, Simmons excelled almost anywhere he was asked to play at Clemson, filling up just about every category on the stat sheet by tallying 102 tackles―16 going for a loss―with 8.0 sacks, three picks, seven pass deflections, and one forced fumble.
Simmons brings the potential to be a neutralizer for the Cardinals defense. Week to week and down to down, he can play a different role for that group, lining up against an opponent’s top seam-threatening tight end, locking down a mismatch-creating running back, or even matching up with an opposing receiver. I love his versatility and love this pick.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars: CB CJ Henderson, Florida
With both Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye gone, the Jaguars desperately needed to restock at cornerback, and they landed my second-ranked player at the position in Henderson. The Florida star is an electric athlete with good size and the ability to play both in press and off-coverage looks. He’s fluid in his backpedal and can flip his hips easily to mirror opponents, planting himself in pass catchers’ back pockets to stay with them downfield. Henderson uses his length well to both hand-fight in coverage and then make plays on the ball, and while he didn’t register an interception in 2019, he racked up six interceptions in his Gators career, adding another 22 passes defensed. He’s also an explosive blitzer off the edge.
Henderson has to clean up his penchant to get grabby at the top of routes, but comes with a very high ceiling. I’m not wild about the value here―it’s a deep cornerback class and Jacksonville would’ve had a crack at a handful of players at the position with its second first-round pick―but Henderson should be a plug-and-play starter.
10. Cleveland Browns: OT Jedrick Wills Jr., Alabama
Wills brings top-end power in both the run and pass game, playing with a methodical yet tenacious demeanor, and always stays balanced and positioned to make his block. The former Crimson Tide star is a people mover in the run game and hits like a ton of bricks on down blocks. In the passing attack, he gave up just one sack and 3.5 quarterback hurries on 714 snaps in 2019 (per the Alabama team website). I love Wills as a player―he came in at no. 10 on my Big Board―but the Browns are projecting him as a left tackle, their clear need after signing Jack Conklin in free agency. Wills played at right tackle the past two seasons for Bama, so while he’s certainly got the athletic traits to make a move to the left, it’s a risk to assume he’ll seamlessly slide into that spot.
11. New York Jets: OT Mekhi Becton, Louisville
I had one condition for the Jets to earn a strong grade with this pick: Just take someone who will help Sam Darnold’s development. Becton has a good chance to do just that. The 6-foot-7, 364-pound tackle is an astoundingly easy-moving big man (his 5.1-second 40-yard dash at the combine clocked in faster than any player over 350 pounds, ever) who brings light feet, length, and balance in pass protection and some spit and vinegar in the run game. As a former high school hooper, he plays with good bend and knows how to use his massive frame to his advantage, administering a forceful punch and strong grip to engulf opponents. He literally throws defenders around and plays with a nasty streak.
Becton is a bit raw in his pass protection techniques and relies a little too much on his size and power at times. He’s the poster child of Planet Theory—there simply aren’t that many human beings walking around with this guy’s size and athleticism—and that gives him almost limitless potential. But because of that lack of refinement, he comes with a little more risk than the other big four (Thomas, Wills and Tristan Wirfs being the others) at the position. Becton came in at no. 11 on my Big Board and comes off the board at no. 11 to the Jets.
12. Las Vegas Raiders: WR Henry Ruggs III, Alabama
Well, this is the most Raiders pick ever. Al Davis is sure to be smiling down on Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock, who just grabbed the fastest player in the draft. The twitched-up speedster can take the top off a defense and has underrated toughness after the catch, able to hit the turbo boosters on a short slant and run away from a defense. Ruggs wasn’t a high-volume target at Alabama but made the most of his touches, finishing his career with 24 touchdowns on 98 career receptions. Pure volume doesn’t paint an accurate picture of Ruggs’s impact, though: Because of his home run potential on every play, the Tide star changes the geometry of a defense.
With both Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb on the board at this spot (both ranked higher on my board), though, I don’t love the value. And his fit in Oakland’s offense is a big question mark, at least with the team’s current quarterback in Derek Carr under center. Carr is notoriously a check-down-heavy passer and doesn’t seem like the best candidate to fully unlock Ruggs’s potential. Unless (or until) a change is made at quarterback, the Raiders may struggle to fully optimize their new weapon.
13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (from Indianapolis via San Francisco): OT Tristan Wirfs, Iowa
The Buccaneers’ incredible offseason just keeps getting better. Wirfs is my top-rated tackle in this class, a glass-eater who boasts a rare combination of mass and athleticism. The 6-foot-5, 320-pound former high school state champion wrestler and discus thrower set a combine record for offensive linemen in February with a 36.5-inch vertical jump, tied another record with a 10-foot-1-inch broad jump, and ran a 4.85-second 40-yard dash, the fastest ever by a 320-plus-pound player. He plays with nimble feet and bulldozer power, and looks to bury opponents into the turf. He projects as a day-one starter at right tackle for Tampa Bay—another massive boost for new quarterback Tom Brady—and brings intriguing schematic and positional versatility down the line, offering the athleticism and size to play at either guard or tackle spot. He should be a 10-year starter in the league and brings Pro Bowl upside.
14. San Francisco 49ers (from Tampa Bay): DT Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina
After dealing star defensive tackle DeForest Bucker to the Colts in March, the 49ers drafted his replacement with the pick they got in return. Kinlaw is big, long, and strong, combining an explosive first step with heavy hands and the ability to shoot through the line and create chaos. He notched 16 tackles for loss in 2018 and 2019, including 10.5 sacks, and his length consistently shows up both on and off the stat sheet: He tallied seven pass deflections in the past two seasons, and uses his long reach to stun defenders and get them off balance and on their heels. Kinlaw was honored by teammates with the Tenacity Award, and that tells you all you need to know about his always-red-lining motor. He can line up at multiple spots and brings three-down potential as a strong run defender and disruptive pass rusher.
The 49ers rode a dominant defensive line to the Super Bowl last season and Kinlaw should give them a chance to re-create that magic. I’m going to downgrade this pick a bit, though, because the 49ers passed up elite receiving talent like Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb. Like Derrick Brown, Kinlaw will have to prove he’s the type of pass rusher who can generate double-digit-sack seasons to justify this type of premium pick, and that’s a risk. San Francisco passed on the opportunity to bolster other positions of need at this spot and instead doubled down on a strength. We’ll see whether that gamble pays off.
15. Denver Broncos: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama
For Drew Lock, Christmas just came early. Jeudy is the best route runner in this class, capable of separating with lightning-quick feet and explosive short-area quickness. The former Crimson Tide star is a big-play creator who makes would-be tacklers miss with rare suddenness and cut-on-a-dime change-of-direction skills. He lines up all over the formation and can threaten deep or get open early in his route and give his quarterback an open target. He’ll pair nicely with ascending superstar Courtland Sutton, and along with the team’s first-rounder from last year, tight end Noah Fant, Denver’s skill position group is quickly turning into one of the most exciting units in the league. Jeudy came in no. 7 on my Big Board, so I love the value here, too.
16. Atlanta Falcons: CB A.J. Terrell, Clemson
The Falcons were rumored to be hot on CJ Henderson, but after watching the Florida star go off the board to the Jaguars, Atlanta went with Terrell instead. He’s a long, battle-tested defender who plays with physicality and toughness at the catch point. He’s strong with his jam, has good ball skills (with six interceptions and 14 passes defensed in three seasons at Clemson), and brings the speed to cover deep. But despite that skill set, he’s a bit stiff-hipped in his transitions, has the tendency to give up too much cushion on come-back and hitch routes, and struggled badly against LSU’s top-tier receivers in the national championship game―a worrisome red flag for his transition to the pros. Terrell fits the Falcons’ scheme and fills a need, but as the no. 36 player on my board (with several higher-ranked corners on that list), this pick feels like a reach.
17. Dallas Cowboys: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma
Receiver wasn’t a strong need for the Cowboys with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup under contract, but it’s tough to criticize them for defaulting to the clear Best Player Available strategy by grabbing Lamb. The Oklahoma pass catcher, who checked in at no. 6 on my Big Board, is a smooth route runner with a physical, aggressive style at the catch point and after the catch. He’s savvy with the ball in the air, jockeying for position to gain leverage and win 50-50 balls, and is slippery and elusive in space, exploding past―and sometimes through―tackle attempts while picking up extra yards downfield. Lamb isn’t the most sudden receiver in this class, but he showed off the speed to get over the top of a defense (and averaged 19.0 yards per catch in his college career, including a 21.4-yard average in 2019—good for third among FBS players) and the ability to separate late in his route to create space downfield. He’s absurdly productive and has the skill set to make an early impact in his career, even in a stacked skill-position group in Dallas. Dak Prescott will put up some ridiculous numbers this year and the Cowboys offense has a chance to be one of the best in the league.
18. Miami Dolphins (from Pittsburgh): OT Austin Jackson, USC
Jackson is a smooth, athletic left tackle who is more of a developmental prospect than a finished one. The former Trojan boasts prototypical size with long arms, quick feet, the range to get out and block on outside runs and screens, and is still just 20 years old. But while Miami is undoubtedly looking at the player he can become in two or three years, Jackson is a project who will have to refine his technique. He stops his feet to punch a little too often, and his grip strength leaves a little bit to be desired, allowing defensive linemen to avoid stalemates and create counterattacks. He struggled badly against Iowa’s A.J. Epenesa in their matchup in 2019, and needs to get stronger at the point of attack. The Dolphins are betting on upside with this pick, but Jackson, who came in at no. 65 on my Big Board, could face a steep learning curve in the pros.
19. Las Vegas Raiders (from Chicago): CB Damon Arnette, Ohio State
After addressing the offense with their first pick of the round, the Raiders addressed another position of need by taking Arnette, an aggressive, versatile cover corner who brings experience lining up on both the outside and in the slot. He’s adept in press looks, and when playing off, he scans the field well to decipher route combinations. The Buckeyes defender plays the ball well and notched four interceptions and 22 passes defensed in his final three seasons at Ohio State, but gets himself into trouble at times when he misses on the jam and loses a step to his opponent. He’s too often a beat slow when transitioning to his trailing technique. Arnette has plenty of upside and comes to Las Vegas battle-tested against some of the top offenses in college football, but he checks in at no. 35 on my Big Board, and with several corners ranked higher on my board, I question the value for Las Vegas.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars (from Los Angeles Rams): Edge K’Lavon Chaisson, LSU
The Jags are betting on athletic upside with this pick. Chaisson is a traits-based prospect who lacked the type of production you’d typically like to see from a first-round edge rusher (he notched just 6.5 sacks in 2019), but his electric athleticism and Gumby-like bend makes him one of the most intriguing players in this draft. He brings a combination of a lightning-quick first step, excellent flexibility, and a nonstop motor, and while he relies on his superlative athleticism a little too often, he did flash burgeoning club, swim, and long-arm moves for the Tigers. Chaisson is no slam dunk: He missed most of the 2018 season with a torn ACL, and he’s a relatively raw pass rusher who will need to refine his technique―but he has the movement skills and pass-rushing talent to become a star in the NFL. I like this pick for the Jags, and the former LSU star should pair nicely with last year’s top pick, Josh Allen.
21. Philadelphia Eagles: WR Jalen Reagor, TCU
The Eagles’ receiver corps badly needed an infusion of speed, and Philly got that with Reagor. The former Horned Frogs star is a twitched-up, highly athletic pass catcher with top-end deep speed and elusiveness in the open field. He is a compact muscle car of a pass catcher at 5-foot-11 and 206 pounds, but showed a knack for going up high and extending to make tough catches in traffic. He’s an electric return man, too, and averaged 20.8 yards per return on punts in 2019. Reagor’s production dropped in 2019 in TCU’s out-of-sync offense, and drops were an issue at times during his career―and while I had a couple of receivers ranked higher on my board, the team and scheme fit in Philly just makes too much sense.
22. Minnesota Vikings (from Buffalo): WR Justin Jefferson, LSU
After dealing Stefon Diggs to the Bills, the Vikings turned around and drafted his replacement. Jefferson announced himself in 2019 by breaking the LSU record with 111 catches while finishing second nationally with 18 touchdowns. The 6-foot-1, 202-pound pass catcher made his living breaking ankles from the slot, employing basketball-style moves as a route runner that consistently put defenders in a blender. Jefferson was unbeatable at the catch point. He’s fearless over the middle of the field, a force in the red zone, and plays with a chip on his shoulder. After operating primarily out of the slot for LSU, Jefferson will have to prove he can make plays on the outside as well (he lined up there in 2018), but the slender big-play receiver looks like a great fit for Minnesota and should be a focal point early in his career.
23. Los Angeles Chargers (from New England): LB Kenneth Murray, Oklahoma
The Chargers gave up second- and third-round picks to move back up into the first round and grab Murray, securing a playmaking linebacker for the middle of their defense. The former Sooner brings sideline-to-sideline speed and a tenacious demeanor; he tallied an absurd 337 tackles—37 of them for a loss—to go with 9.5 sacks in the past three seasons. He uses his turbo-boosted acceleration to fly downhill against the run and on blitzes and has the body control and speed to cover ground as a dropback zone defender. While he will have to prove he can hang with running backs and tight ends in man coverage, he has the athletic traits to develop in that area. Murray likes to lay hat against the run, but he’ll have to be a more consistently disciplined tackler in the pros.
The value is the biggest red flag for this pick. In this deep and talented draft class, surrendering a pair of valuable day-two picks to grab an off-ball linebacker with question marks around coverage could come back to bite the Chargers.
24. New Orleans Saints: C Cesar Ruiz, Michigan
This just feels like yet another unexciting but ultimately strong pick for the Saints. Ruiz is a bowling ball of an interior lineman who plays with superior leverage and plenty of power in both the run and pass game. The former Wolverine is methodical in all of his movements, always playing with a calm demeanor, balanced base, and little wasted movement. Ruiz checked in as the top interior lineman on my top-100 Big Board and should slide in as a starter for New Orleans from day one. The only question, of course, is where. Ruiz, who made 26 starts at center and five at right guard in his collegiate career, will slide in next to last year’s standout second-rounder, Erik McCoy, at one of the two positions. In either case, the Saints just solidified their interior line, and that should pay dividends for Drew Brees and the team’s run game.
25. San Francisco 49ers (from Minnesota): WR Brandon Aiyuk, Arizona State
I think the 49ers have a type. San Francisco traded up from the no. 31 spot (giving up the 117th and 176th picks) to select Aiyuk, an explosive pass catcher with top-tier run-after-the-catch talent that should rival both George Kittle and Deebo Samuel. The former junior college transfer out of Sierra College blew up in 2019 as the go-to guy in Arizona State’s offense, showing off big-play talent and elusiveness in the open field. Aiyuk is raw as a route runner and may need some time to develop as a more nuanced receiver, but he brings home-run-hitting ability to the 49ers after notching six 50-plus-yard plays for the Sun Devils in 2019 (tied for fourth in college football). With Kyle Shanahan calling plays, expect San Francisco to get the ball in his hands in space. He’s dangerous in the return game, too, and averaged 31.9 yards per kick return and 16.1 yards per punt return in 2019. This might be a slight reach for Aiyuk, who I’ve got ranked 40th on my board, but he lands with about as perfect of an offensive schemer as you could hope for.
26. Green Bay Packers (from Houston via Miami): QB Jordan Love, Utah State
Well, this will be interesting. The Packers gave up a fourth-round pick to move up four spots to select Love, ostensibly grabbing a future starter they can groom behind the 36-year-old Aaron Rodgers. That’s an interesting long-term move for a team that should be focused on squeezing everything it can out of its aging superstar quarterback. (Of course, that’s probably what a lot of people said when the Packers took Rodgers back in 2005 when Brett Favre was still entrenched at starter.)
Love possesses a flick-of-the-wrist throwing style and intriguing athleticism but is as big of a traits-based project as we’ll see in this draft. The Utah State product threw 20 touchdowns and 17 interceptions in 2019 after posting a 32-to-6 touchdown-to-interception line the season prior, regressing badly in his decision-making and overall command of the offense. He did flash accuracy and touch to every level of the field, throws well on the move, and has the athleticism to pick up yards on the ground, but his positive plays were too often accompanied by head-scratching throws and erratic ball placement. It’ll be up to Green Bay to massage those issues out of his game and figure out how to get him to play more like the guy we saw in 2018, and while Love certainly has a high ceiling, his floor could be far lower than the Packers want to admit.
I question the wisdom of this pick, at least in the short term. For starters, an already-tepid relationship between Rodgers and the team is not likely to improve with this selection, and it does little to bolster the supporting cast around the former MVP. The opportunity cost around this pick could hurt the team’s chances for contending over the next couple of years.
27. Seattle Seahawks: LB Jordyn Brooks, Texas Tech
This pick brings to mind that scene from Arrested Development when Jason Bateman’s character, Michael Bluth, opens up a bag labeled “DEAD DOVE, do not eat!” and then recoils in horror upon seeing said deceased dove, before muttering to himself, “I don’t know what I expected.” The Seahawks have made it a yearly tradition to make a shocking first-round pick that’s widely considered a massive reach (L.J. Collier last year, Rashaad Penny the year before), and, well, I don’t know what I expected when Brooks’s name was announced. The rangy, athletic linebacker did garner some late buzz as a potential first-rounder in the past week or two, but came in at no. 87 on my Big Board, no. 64 in Pro Football Focus’s draft guide, no. 67 in Dane Brugler’s draft guide at The Athletic, and no. 84 on Arif Hasan’s consensus Big Board (which aggregates over 60 analysts’ rankings).
It’s not that the former Texas Tech star is bad; he won all-conference honors all four years in college (honorable mention All-Big 12 team his first three years before making the first team in 2019), and finished among the nation’s leaders in tackles for a loss with 20 on the season. What gives me pause is whether he can fit in the modern NFL as a three-down player: Brooks is a throwback linebacker who plays with an aggressive, downhill style; he’s a beast against the run, showing the sideline-to-sideline speed to chase down ballcarriers, and has some intriguing talent as a blitzer, racking up 44 pressures in 2019, per PFF. The big question mark, though, is whether he can cover, and that’s a prerequisite with how the game is played today.
Seattle clearly has a plan for Brooks, who hits like a ton of bricks, brings a physical intimidation factor to the defense, and flies around the field like Bobby Wagner. But Brooks has a long way to go to prove he can match Wagner’s instincts in dropping back in zones and in covering tight ends and backs man-to-man. With Wagner and K.J. Wright entrenched as the team’s starters at linebacker, Brooks’s role as a rookie is unclear―particularly if he struggles in coverage.
28. Baltimore Ravens: LB Patrick Queen, LSU
The Ravens’ pick offers a strong contrast to that of the Seahawks. Queen is the prototype of a modern off-ball linebacker, a fluid, instinctive backer with athleticism and incredible versatility to play in coverage, as a blitzer, and as a run defender. He’s logged just one season as a full-time starter but shows the natural ability to scan the field to quickly diagnose where opponents are trying to go with the ball. He’s a natural mover in space with a good feel for routes developing in front of him and can flip his hips smoothly when dropping back into coverage. Plus, he brings the explosiveness and agility to blitz from multiple angles. Queen is an ascending player whose best football is in front of him. Love this pick, and love the fit.
29. Tennessee Titans: OT Isaiah Wilson, Georgia
Wilson is a mountain of a man at 6-foot-5 and 350 pounds, boasting rare size and natural movement skills. The former three-sport high school athlete (who also competed in lacrosse and wrestling while dabbling as a situational, high-stepping, truck-sticking, highlight-making wildcat quarterback) is raw, with just two seasons of experience starting for Georgia, but should be a nice boost to the Titans’ smashmouth run game. He plays with an edge in the run game and brings industrial-strength power to the right tackle spot. He’s still developing as a pass protector and is a bit heavy-footed at times in that area, but he has the length to compensate (with an 84-plus-inch wingspan). For a team whose identity lies in physicality, Wilson looks the part. It’s a bit of a reach this early (he checked in at no. 61 on my Big Board), and the Titans are banking on his upside more than the player he is today, but he should slide in as Jack Conklin’s successor on the right side.
30. Miami Dolphins (from Green Bay): CB Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn
The Dolphins might just be building the best secondary in the NFL. After adding free agent corner Byron Jones in the offseason to pair with Xavien Howard, Miami grabbed its nickel corner of the future in Igbinoghene. The Auburn star was a big-time receiver recruit coming out of high school (and the son of a pair of former Olympic track athletes) before moving to corner as a sophomore and never looking back. He’s an aggressive, sticky cover corner with the versatility to play on the outside or in the slot, and brings top-tier athleticism and twitchy foot speed to the position. He’s still raw, with just two seasons of starting experience, and lacked ball production for the Tigers (with just one interception in his Auburn career), but he’s an exciting, ascending defender who should also bring some value in the return game (nine returns with a 35.2-yard average in 2019).
31. Minnesota Vikings (from San Francisco): CB Jeff Gladney, TCU
Gladney is one of my favorite players in this class and fits an obvious need for the Vikings. The former Horned Frog has a wiry frame but plays with a ferocious demeanor, mixing quick feet and fluid hips in coverage. As a former high school receiver, he brings natural ball skills―both in finding the ball to swat it away or playing his receiver’s hands at the catch point―and recorded 45 contested targets over the past two seasons, most in college football. Gladney has the strength and speed to play on the outside and the change of direction and physicality to bump into the slot. He was my 22nd-ranked player in this class, so I love the value the Vikings get here at no. 31.
32. Kansas City Chiefs: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU
Edwards-Helaire sneaked into the first round and became the first running back off the board. The former LSU star is a perfect fit for the Chiefs’ high-octane offense, an incredibly elusive runner who employs jump cuts and whirling-dervish spin moves that fake would-be tacklers out of their jocks. He’s one of the best pass-catching backs in this draft, adds return value, and was incredibly reliable with the ball, fumbling just twice on 439 college touches. I’m not a big believer in taking a running back in the first round―I just don’t love that value―but the things that Edwards-Helaire can do in the passing game help mitigate that concern. He should be an early-impact playmaker and provide a boost to what’s already one of the best offenses in the NFL. I’ve compared him to Maurice Jones-Drew in my draft guide, but this team-and-coach pairing wants me to change that pick to Brian Westbrook.