NFL Draft 2020 Preview
Issue 13, Volume 110
Whether it’s the boos when Roger Goodell takes the stage or the cheers when teams select their franchise quarterback, the NFL Draft always has an electric atmosphere, with teams sealing their fates for years to come. Though this year’s NFL Draft will not take place in front of any fans due to concerns over COVID-19, the picks themselves will be as riveting as ever.
Without further ado, here’s what to watch for on April 23:
Aftermath of the Free Agency Frenzy
The NFL offseason is almost always as exciting as the actual games, and this year is no different. Franchise icons Tom Brady, Phillip Rivers, and DeAndre Hopkins have switched teams, creating a free agency frenzy that will inevitably force teams to alter their draft strategy.
One of the biggest questions surrounding this draft regards the Patriots. It seems unlikely that they will stick with Brian Hoyer and Jarret Stidham under center. Bill Belichick has a deep talent pool at quarterback to fish from this year. He should take a quarterback at 23 overall if Jordan Love is available. If not, the coaching mastermind will unearth a gem like Jalen Hurts, Jacob Eason, or Jake Fromm in the second or third round.
Further draft intrigue involves the Houston Texans. They still have Deshaun Watson under center, and the addition of David Johnson at the running back position fills their need for a workhorse. They had a good playoff run last year, beating the Bills and almost beating eventual Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs. But after GM Bill O’Brien surprisingly traded away perennial top three receiver Deandre Hopkins, they will be scouting for a receiver this draft. There is an especially deep talent pool at the pass catching position this year, with the likes of Jerry Jeudy, Ceedee Lamb, and Tee Higgins on the board. Some mock drafts have as many as 10 wide receivers being taken off the board in the first round alone, compared to just two being taken last year.
Free agency aftermath affects so many teams that it would be hard to name all its impacts. The Chargers can select their quarterback of the future at sixth overall. The Giants should look to bolster their anemic offensive line. The Colts need more weapons for new quarterback Phillip Rivers. The Bengals have to build up their defense to support what should be an exciting offense.
The Franchise Quarterback Hunt
This year, as always, several teams will surely be searching for their next franchise icon. Louisiana State’s Joe Burrow will be the surefire number one pick after a phenomenal 2019 season, in which he led the LSU Tigers to the National Title. The hapless Cincinnati Bengals are in desperate need for a star to transform their franchise. The two seem to be a perfect match—well, except for the rumors that Burrow doesn’t want to play in Cincinnati. Though, he will almost surely be picked by the Bengals number one overall next week.
The Washington Redskins currently hold the valuable number two pick after out-tanking the Giants, a fellow NFC East team, as well as the Detroit Lions of the NFC North division. Rumors have been intensifying that they will listen to trade offers from a team that wants Tua and target Isaiah Simmons themselves. Possible trading partners include the Dolphins and the Chargers, two teams with early picks that will try to select their next QB1 after poor seasons.
If the Dolphins stay at number five, they will almost certainly take Tagovailoa if he falls to them, and should he not be there, Justin Herbert is a reliable plan B. The Chargers will also be in the mix to take a quarterback at number six, and there have been rumors linking them to Justin Herbert.
Several teams, including the Jacksonville Jaguars, Las Vegas Raiders, and maybe even the Patriots, will try to seek out the Redskins, Lions, and Giants’ picks to leapfrog the Dolphins in the race for Tua.
The first pick will be a no-brainer. But after that is when this draft gets interesting.
Mock Draft (Picks 1-5)
1) Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow QB Louisiana State University
5,600 yards, 60 passing touchdowns, a Heisman trophy, and a national championship add up to arguably the greatest season ever by a college quarterback. Joe Burrow is the best quarterback in this draft, especially with Tua Tagovioloa’s injury concerns. The Cincinnati Bengals are in desperate need of a franchise quarterback. If the Bengals do not take Joe Burrow, they need to fire their entire front office.
2) Washington Redskins: Chase Young EDGE Ohio State University
In the past four NFL drafts, Ohio State has had two of the top defenders: Nick and Joey Bosa. But Chase Young has a higher floor and ceiling than both of them. Young is just as technically gifted as the Bosas, while also being one of the most physically dominant players in college football history. With 21 tackles for loss, seven forced fumbles, and 16.5 sacks in only 12 games due to a suspension that should never have happened (the suspension was for getting a loan so that his girlfriend could come to his game), Chase Young showed that he will be a force to be reckoned with in the NFL for years to come. He’s a no brainer pick for the Redskins, who need help all over their defense, especially after announcing that they will be sticking with sophomore Dwayne Haskins at the helm of their offense.
3) Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah CB Ohio State University
There are no basic stats that can explain how good Jeff Okudah is because teams were too scared to throw at him last year. But when teams did dare to test him, he showed why he is the consensus top cornerback in this draft. In the Michigan vs. Ohio State game this past season, one of the few games in which teams threw his way, Okudah racked up two passes defended and shut down every receiver he was matched up against. The Detroit Lions traded their best defensive player in cornerback Darius Slay for next to nothing. To replace him, they signed cornerback Desmond Trufant, who was recently cut by the Falcons. Though Trufant may help them out, the Lions still need major upgrades in the secondary, and Okudah is the obvious pick for them.
4) New York Giants: Mekhi Becton OT University of Louisville
The Giants general manager, Dave Gettleman, loves his “Hog Mollies” (big, strong lineman), and I believe he is going to pick the most Hog Molly lineman in this draft. The 6’7” 364 lb tackle out of Louisville, Kentucky, Mekhi Becton makes football players look like ants next to him—which will not change going into the NFL. The Giants have a major need for offensive tackles, especially with Nate Solder regressing as he ages. There are four top offensive tackles, but I believe that Gettleman will fall in love with Becton’s size and make him the first tackle off the board.
5) Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa QB University of Alabama
Tua Tagovioloa burst onto the scene as a true freshman in the national championship game. Since then, he put up an almost Heisman season as a sophomore and was matching his sophomore production this past season before he suffered a season ending hip injury. Everybody knows that Tagovailoa is a great player, but he is a bit of a risk this high in the draft. His injury history coupled with the fact that teams cannot bring prospects in for physicals—NFL related physicals have been shut down due to COVID-19—make him a risky prospect. That being said, he is clearly the number two QB prospect and the Dolphins, after making a splash in free agency, still need a franchise quarterback.