By almost any measure, the NFL’s first virtual draft was a success. Television ratings were record-breaking. Communication problems were minimal. We were able to see wide receiver Henry Ruggs III in a robe, Commissioner Roger Goodell in an easy chair and Bill Belichick’s dog take over the New England Patriots’ draft responsibilities. And we watched Houston Texans Coach Bill O’Brien blow up when the Detroit Lions reportedly backed out of a trade.
But not every team emerged from the three-day, seven-round event with an impressive draft class. Here’s a look at which teams were the winners and losers of the 2020 NFL draft.
Miami Dolphins: It would have been a disappointment for Miami if it didn’t wind up on this list because it entered with 14 picks, including three first-rounders. But there’s a lot to like about the players the Dolphins took.
In the first round, they landed a potential franchise quarterback in Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, a potential starting tackle in USC’s Austin Jackson and a potential slot cornerback in Auburn’s Noah Igbinoghene (who will form a talented trio with big-money outside cornerbacks Byron Jones and Xavien Howard). The second round was productive as well, with guard Robert Hunt and defensive tackle Raekwon Davis representing value picks at key positions.
Clearly, the Dolphins are rebuilding the right way, with a good free agency followed by a successful draft. If Tagovailoa becomes a true franchise quarterback, they could be competitive soon.
Dallas Cowboys: The Philadelphia Eagles have to be concerned and maybe a little frustrated. Their NFC East rivals got the wide receiver the Eagles were trying to trade up for: Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, a big-time playmaker who reminds me in some ways of Dez Bryant and was a steal at No. 17. Amari Cooper and Lamb are an excellent 1-2 receiving punch.
But Dallas arguably did even better on Day 2. In the second round, the Cowboys landed Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs to help replace Jones. Diggs was considered a potential first-round pick. Then they lucked out again when Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore fell to them in the third round. That’s a great three-round haul, and they addressed another need in the fourth with Wisconsin center Tyler Biadasz.
Minnesota Vikings: They did a great job addressing needs in the first three rounds. To replace star wide receiver Stefon Diggs, they used the 22nd pick they got from the Buffalo Bills to take LSU’s Justin Jefferson. Then they moved down a few spots in the first round to nab TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney at No. 31. Those are two potential starters.
On Day 2, they addressed another need by taking Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland as a potential successor to starting left tackle Riley Reiff, then doubled down at cornerback by taking Mississippi State’s Cameron Dantzler.
If that weren’t enough, the Vikings added to their depth with a huge collection of Day 3 picks. It was a really nice job by General Manager Rick Spielman to add so many players on rookie contracts who will allow them to get younger and have more room under the salary cap.
Indianapolis Colts: They did about as well as a team could without a first-round pick, which they gave up in a smart trade to acquire defensive tackle DeForest Buckner from the San Francisco 49ers.
They boosted the offense around newly signed quarterback Philip Rivers with a pair of second-round picks: physical wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. of USC and powerful running back Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin. Then they capped an excellent draft by selecting Washington quarterback Jacob Eason in the fourth round. A lot of people thought Indianapolis might take Eason in the second round, but instead it got him on Day 3.
Eason has a great arm, but he’s not NFL-ready. Learning from Rivers and Coach Frank Reich is a perfect scenario for him, and the Colts have the chance to develop him into their quarterback of the future.
Carolina Panthers: General Manager Marty Hurney quietly put together an excellent draft by starting to rebuild a depleted defense for new coach Matt Rhule. The line was helped by getting Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown at No. 7 overall and Penn State defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos in the second round. The Brown-Kawann Short duo at defensive tackle is great, and Gross-Matos will fit in well opposite speedy edge rusher Brian Burns, a first-round pick last year.
The Panthers traded up to the last pick in the second round to get Southern Illinois safety Jeremy Chinn, helping a position of need with a versatile player. Cornerback Troy Pride Jr. of Notre Dame might not replace James Bradberry as a starter, but he was a great value in the fourth round.
New Orleans Saints: Sean Payton is one of the most aggressive play callers in the NFL, and he again took a bold approach in this year’s draft, trading up twice in the third round.
He came away with three good players, then didn’t draft again until the seventh round. The Saints selected Michigan center Cesar Ruiz in the first round and Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun and Dayton tight end Adam Trautman in the third — all good players, but it’s difficult to know whether they can help the team win next season.
Possibly figuring that rookies won’t be able to help much this season given that offseason activities and training camp could be canceled or limited because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Payton traded most of his choices. The problem with that approach is that he was essentially punting on one of the deeper draft classes in recent years.
Green Bay Packers: They entered this year’s draft, considered to have one of the best wide receiver classes in years, with a glaring need at the position behind Davante Adams. They instead opted to use their first three picks on Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, Boston College running back AJ Dillon and Cincinnati tight end Josiah Deguara.
Of course, the most controversial decision was the move to trade up for Love with the 26th pick. Not only does it signal to Aaron Rodgers that he might not be around once his contract expires after the 2023 season, but not addressing wide receiver in the first round — or at all — will make it more difficult for him to lead the Packers back to the Super Bowl in the final years of his career.
All Rodgers has at wide receiver is Adams and free agent addition Devin Funchess, who didn’t work out last year in Indianapolis. Dillon is a power back who figures to be a complementary runner to Aaron Jones, who broke out last season as a dual running/receiving threat.
Packers fans don’t seem to be happy, and Rodgers might not be, either.
Las Vegas Raiders: The Raiders were in need of a No. 1 wide receiver and a cornerback. They went for the speed of Ruggs with the 12th pick despite Jerry Jeudy — who was Alabama’s top wide receiver, not Ruggs — and Lamb still being on the board. Then they took Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette, who many projected as a second- or third-round pick, at No. 19.
The Raiders didn’t pick again until they had back-to-back third-round selections — which they used on wide receivers Lynn Bowden Jr. of Kentucky and Bryan Edwards of South Carolina. There’s no issue with either player, but that’s a lot of draft capital at wide receiver, and it came at the expense of addressing other needs.
Chicago Bears: They were light on draft capital, in part because of the Khalil Mack trade before the 2018 season. It’s hard to argue with that decision, given that Mack is one of the best defenders in the NFL, but the result was Chicago came away with few early picks in a talent-loaded draft.
That’s part of the reason I wasn’t a huge fan of drafting Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet with the 43rd pick; the Bears had other needs, and they signed Jimmy Graham last month. I did like their second-round selection of Utah cornerback Jaylon Johnson, but then they didn’t draft again until the fifth round. They simply didn’t come away with as many impact players as most other teams did.