Green Bay trades for the heir-apparent at quarterback. Las Vegas takes a cornerback ranked by most analysts as a second- or third-rounder. And then there’s Seattle – it wouldn’t feel like an official NFL draft without the Seahawks taking a Day 2 player on Day 1.
The first day of the draft went off without a hitch, as there were few, if any, noticeable problems with the first-ever virtual draft.
Here’s a snapshot of picks 1-10 of the first round:
“There aren’t a ton of examples of quarterbacks with just one year of production who went on to have fantastic NFL careers. The best examples may be Cam Newton and Kyler Murray, but there have been several busts, such as Mitchell Trubisky, Mark Sanchez and Christian Ponder.
“But what separates Burrow from the players listed above was that his one year of production was arguably the best college football season by a quarterback that we have ever seen. Not only did he put up gaudy stats at LSU, but he won the Heisman Trophy Award and led LSU to a National Championship, beating Oklahoma and Clemson. In the two playoff games alone, he passed or rushed for 14 touchdowns and tallied over 1,000 yards of offense.”
In terms of his arm strength, Burrow completed 56.4 percent of passes that traveled 20 yards or more, according to ESPN, the second-highest percentage among FBS quarterbacks.
Edge Chase Young, Ohio State: Again, no surprise. Young will be paired with last year’s stud pass rusher, Montez Sweat, who had 50 tackles, 8 tackles for loss and 7 sacks last season as a rookie.
Young, who’s been called a generational talent, now gives Washington one of the best – and youngest – pass rushing duos in the league.
“Take a look at his college production, specifically tackle for a loss production per game in his best collegiate season,” said NFL draft analyst Marcus Mosher of USA Today. “Over the years, tackle for a loss production combined with a baseline of athleticism has proven to be the most predictive way to judge a pass rushers’ likelihood of success. As you can see, he compares very well to players like Von Miller, Khalil Mack and Jadeveon Clowney.
“Young would be a top-2 or 3 pick in every single draft class over the last five years and is one of the safest prospects we’ve seen in years due to his athleticism and production at Ohio State. I expect him to make a significant impact in 2020, no matter what team he lands on.”
CB Jeff Okudah, Ohio State: The only surprise here is that Detroit did not wind up trading this pick.
But Okudah should step in right in as a starter for Detroit after the Lions traded Darius Slay to Philadelphia.
The junior has been compared to Patrick Peterson, Jalen Ramsey, Denzel Ward and Marshon Lattimore, the latter two from Ohio State. A former assistant coach who was at Ohio State when Ward and Lattimore were still playing there said, “Okudah is what would happen if you combined their positive traits.”
OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia: You have to combine this pick with the Giants’ previous two first-round picks, as Thomas is expected to protect second-year QB Daniel Jones and make life easier for third-year RB Saquon Barkley. From GM Dave Gettleman, via ESPN:
“It’s very, very difficult for Saquon to run the ball if he doesn’t have holes. It’s going to be difficult for Daniel to throw the ball when he’s on his back.”
The four top OTs were all bunched together in the rankings, with many analysts calling Thomas the third-best. However, Pro Football Focus gave him a 92.4 overall grade, the highest of any draft-eligible Power-5 OTs.
QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama: Talk about a circuitous route to Miami.
First Tagovailoa was the presumed No. 1 overall pick. After he suffered a serious hip injury, analysts initially thought Tagovailoa might slip out of the top-10. The injury healed, but teams allegedly took him off their draft boards or flunked him medically because of his injury history.
There were also rumors that Washington would take Tagovailoa with the No. 2 pick. And if that didn’t happen, Miami allegedly wanted to move up to No. 3 overall to take him – unless they liked Justin Herbert of Oregon better.
In the end? “Tank for Tua” worked out just fine in Miami, as they didn’t have to do anything but let him fall to their laps at No. 5.
QB Justin Herbert, Oregon: Surely you didn’t think the Chargers were serious about going into the season with Tyrod Taylor at quarterback, did you?
Taylor may still wind up starting a chunk – or all – of the season, but the Chargers have their signal-caller of the future. Herbert has improved his accuracy over the years, going from 59 percent to 67 percent between 2018 to 2019.
DL Derrick Brown, Auburn: The top defensive tackle in the draft, this was the perfect marriage of need versus best player available, as Carolina only has two DTs on its roster.
Analysts say Brown has Pro Bowl potential, although his Combine showing was a bit of a head-scratcher. Ultimately, analysts were correct, as his Combine performance had no impact on his draft standing.
LB Isaiah Simmons, Clemson: So, what does a team that has one of the best linebacker-safety hybrids in the league do during the 2020 draft?
Draft another linebacker-safety hybrid.
Budda Baker, a safety/nickel/linebacker for Arizona, made his second Pro Bowl appearance after a monster season in which he compiled 147 tackles – including a league-leading 104 solo stops – and 7 TFLs last year. He also played in 98.8 percent of all defensive snaps for Arizona, according to Football Outsiders.
Simmons will likely fill in at weakside linebacker for Arizona, who simply couldn’t pass up the best player available and potentially the best athlete in the draft. Out of Young, Simmons, Okudah and Brown, the Clemson product was the last of the elite non-QB and non-OT prospects to be drafted.
— Adam Rank (@adamrank) April 24, 2020
Analysts were right on the latter, as Henderson replaces Jalen Ramsey and fills an immediate need for the Jaguars. The main knock on Henderson is his tackling ability.
Henderson, though, has plenty of fans in the scouting community. One scout told Walter Football that Henderson was “one of the most gifted athletic cover guys I have seen in a long time. Thought he was slam-dunk top-five pick heading into the year.”
OT Jedrick Wills, Alabama: The question coming into the draft wasn’t whether Wills would wind up being selected within the first 15 picks. Instead, the question was whether Wills could survive on the left side, as the Alabama junior had only played on the right side, dating back to his high school days. That served Wills well at Alabama, where he protected the blind-side of left-handed QB Tagovailoa.
“I think he’s got all the physical tools and physical abilities to do that,” Nick Saban said in the spring updates interview, posted on Facebook. “I think it’s a comfort level for every player. Some people feel more comfortable in a right-handed stance, especially if that’s how they played for many, many years, which Jedrick played right tackle in high school, too.“
Jake Rigdon (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers the NFL draft for Fanspeak and the On The Clock, which is the only NFL draft simulator that allows you to customize and use your own big board while giving you control over trades.