It’s impossible to evaluate one first-round pick without evaluating another. The NFL Draft is all about value, and getting the most out of the hand you’re dealt. Teams that stray from the board risk missing out on greater talents and one franchise’s folly is always, inevitably another’s fortune.
The book is far from written on the 2020 NFL Draft, but based on what we know from pre-draft evaluations, how do the 32 first-round picks rank, in terms of value? Here’s a look at our 2020 NFL Draft first-round value rankings!
2020 NFL Draft first-round value rankings
32. Las Vegas Raiders – Ohio State CB Damon Arnette at No. 19
There are two first-round picks that stand out above — or rather below — the rest, in terms of value. The Raiders’ selection of Damon Arnette at 19 and the Seahawks’ selection of Jordyn Brooks at 27 were particularly inexcusable. It was challenging to decide who to place at the unenviable last-place position, but I ultimately settled on Arnette.
I actually like Arnette as a player; he’s a feisty cornerback who plays with good vertical explosiveness, ball skills, and physicality. But he’ll be 24 years old by the start of the 2020 season, and several cornerbacks on the board at this point offered far more closing burst and athletic potential.
Arnette should produce for the Raiders, but due to his age, he’s a somewhat limited long-term asset, and he was far from the most athletically gifted player at his position on the board. He’s a great second-day pick, but he shouldn’t have been in the first-round conversation.
31. Seattle Seahawks – Texas Tech LB Jordyn Brooks at No. 27
The Seahawks are repeat offenders when it comes to bad value in the first round. Over the past three drafts, they’ve now selected Rashaad Penny, L.J. Collier, and the aforementioned Brooks on the first night of the NFL Draft.
And in 2016, they selected the much-maligned offensive tackle Germain Ifedi, who was a leftover signing of the Chicago Bears in free agency. At this point, as consistent as the Seahawks have been on the field, they’re infamous for their first-round misses, and Brooks is in danger of being next in line.
Brooks’ athletic potential and withstanding youth bumps him above the selection of Arnette, but there’s a comfortable gap between his and the next most valuable pick. Brooks has an impressive combination of size and speed, and his production in run defense was astounding in 2019.
That said, his mental lapses in coverage will dilute his athleticism at the next level if he can’t refine that part of his game, and if he remains a two-down player, his value will be dramatically and negatively impacted in a pass-first modern NFL.
30. Green Bay Packers – Utah State QB Jordan Love at No. 26
This low ranking isn’t so much an indictment of Jordan Love as it is an indictment of the Green Bay Packers’ need for him at this stage. Love has legitimate franchise quarterback potential, but it’s hard to see when he might hit the field for Green Bay. The Packers appear to be in win-now mode with Aaron Rodgers, and yet, they passed up an opportunity to strengthen his supporting cast, instead opting to add his potential replacement.
Although Rodgers only registered an OSM (Offensive Share Metric) grade of 19.60 in 2019, on the fringe between average and good, he managed to lead the Packers to a strong 13-3 record and remains under contract with Green Bay until 2024.
The Packers have a potential out in Rodgers’ contract in 2022, but they could have been better served investing more in their offensive talent core this year while saving the changing of the guard at quarterback for one of those later years.
29. Los Angeles Chargers – Oklahoma LB Kenneth Murray at No. 23
Don’t get me wrong; I was a big fan of Kenneth Murray as a prospect. He was a polarizing one among draft analysts, but his combination of elite athleticism and drive gives him a good foundation at the next level. His physical profile alone was worth a first-round pick, and he should provide an immediate impact with the Chargers.
That said, Murray does have some inconsistencies in the mental part of his game that could hinder his development. His instincts in both run defense and pass defense are considerably spotty, and the Chargers, a team with a lot of needs, gave up their second and third-round picks to get him. Taking that big of a risk, and picking the less complete counterpart to Patrick Queen, could come back to bite the Chargers, even if Murray pans out.
28. San Francisco 49ers – Arizona State WR Brandon Aiyuk at No. 25
Kyle Shanahan knows what he’s doing when he trades up for an offensive player. The move to grab Brandon Aiyuk was very much by design, and Shanahan can make the initial value of this pick irrelevant if he’s able to employ Aiyuk the way he intends to. That said, going by the draft board, it’s clear that the 49ers gave up some value to pull this off.
The 49ers are one of only a few teams that could afford to sacrifice value, especially after adding a second first-round pick through the trade of DeForest Buckner. Wide receiver was one of their needs and they filled it with the selection of Aiyuk.
But, there were several other pass-catchers with fringe first-round grades still on the board, and the 49ers traded their fourth and fifth-round picks to get Aiyuk when they might have been able to snag him or someone comparable at 31. The unique thing about Aiyuk is that he’s an explosive RAC threat, so Shanahan can maximize that, but until he does, he took a risk, in terms of value.
27. Miami Dolphins – USC OT Austin Jackson at No. 18
The Dolphins were smart to invest in the offensive line early on in the draft, as many expected they would. But with the top four tackles gone at 18, it felt like the Dolphins settled when they took Austin Jackson out of USC. Jackson has the athletic tools necessary to be a capable starter on the left side, and there’s reason to believe that more power could be added to his game as he continues to distance himself from a bone marrow transplant procedure undergone before the 2019 campaign.
That said, Jackson’s relative lack of mechanical development, despite having two years of starting experience, is concerning. He’ll be relied on to protect Tua Tagovailoa early in his career, and that’s a responsibility that he might not be completely ready for on day one. He has the athleticism to be a plus starter with some development, but Miami could have achieved better value with several other potential starters still on the board.
26. Atlanta Falcons – Clemson CB A.J. Terrell at No. 16
You’ll never get too many complaints from me for picking an athletic cornerback early on. Cornerback is one of the most important defensive positions, and it’s always a good thing to have cornerbacks who are superior to their opposing receivers, in terms of athleticism. A.J. Terrell certainly isn’t lacking there, as he logged a 4.42 40-yard dash, a 34.5-inch vertical, and a 129-inch broad jump, all at 6-foot-1, 195.
Terrell checks most of the physical boxes, but while he’s a very good athlete, he’s more fluid than he is fast, and he doesn’t always show the desired agency in contested situations. Some of the most pivotal plays in football are made between two players at the catch point, and while Terrell has the physical traits to flourish there, he too often came up short at the collegiate level. That’s something he can develop, but cornerbacks with better overall makeups were available at this point.
25. Kansas City Chiefs – LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire at No. 32
It’s okay to salivate over the fit of Clyde Edwards-Helaire in Kansas City, while also acknowledging the sacrifice of value that occurred due to the Chiefs’ selection of a running back in the first round. Running backs are generally replaceable by nature, and the Chiefs could’ve added a similarly dynamic threat later on.
All this being said, if anyone is in a position to draft a running back in the first, it’s the Chiefs. They had a need at cornerback, but their explosive offense mitigates some of the concerns surrounding their defense, and Edwards-Helaire is indeed an excellent match. His compact, balanced running style, combined with his prowess as a receiver, gives him the versatility needed to flourish in Andy Reid’s offense.
24. Tennessee Titans – Georgia OT Isaiah Wilson at No. 29
The Titans chose to take their favorite available offensive tackle at 29, selecting Georgia blocker Isaiah Wilson. Wilson, who was exclusively a right tackle with the Bulldogs, should seamlessly file into the spot left by Jack Conklin in free agency. He’s a huge presence with a 6-foot-6, 350-pound frame and massive 35-inch arms. Wilson perhaps best fits the Titans’ physical style, and he was a solid selection at 29.
One could argue that there was enough elite talent in the secondary available, as well as enough remaining depth at tackle, that the Titans could have waited and selected a player with a more equivalent value to their draft slot. That said, they ultimately remedied this by stopping Kristian Fulton’s slide in the second.
Wilson received first-round buzz for a reason, but his athletic ceiling deemed him a bit of a reach where he was picked. He should be a solid starter for the Titans, but one has to wonder if their decision to pass on other options like Josh Jones, Ezra Cleveland, and Lucas Niang might come back to haunt them.
23. Jacksonville Jaguars – Florida CB CJ Henderson at No. 9
If CJ Henderson continues to develop around his all-world athletic traits, then no one will criticize the Jaguars for picking him in the top 10. Henderson is an elite athlete who has the mirroring ability and closing speed to be an anger-inducing defender in man coverage. His 6-foot-1 frame also allows him to produce in contested situations, and he has the explosiveness needed to close windows in a hurry.
With all this being said, Henderson could stand to improve his physicality and tackling ability. There were some lapses in urgency on his 2019 tape, and that’s what caused me to rank him close to Auburn’s Noah Igbinoghene. Igbinoghene ended up going at No. 30 overall, 21 picks after Henderson.
Henderson has the upside to make this pick worth it, and in coverage, he’ll already pay off dividends on the outside. But there’s still work to be done, nonetheless, and with the depth at cornerback in this draft, the Jaguars may have gotten better value by waiting or trading back.