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2020 NFL Draft: Ranking the value of each first-round selection

2020 NFL Draft: Ranking the value of each first-round selection

22. Los Angeles Chargers – Oregon QB Justin Herbert at No. 6

There’s undeniable value in securing one’s franchise quarterback, which the Chargers hope to have accomplished with this pick. But measuring the value of each first-round pick is an exercise similar to splitting hairs, and in this game of inches, the Chargers wound up behind the first teams of the quarterback group.

Justin Herbert has perhaps the highest potential in the 2020 NFL Draft with his athleticism and arm strength but watching his tape, he’s an extremely volatile player who only consistently throws to one speed. His situation in Los Angeles allows for him to learn at his own pace, as Tyrod Taylor is available to shoulder some of the early load. But by my evaluation, Herbert was closer as a prospect to Jordan Love than he was to Joe Burrow, and thus, his valuation will follow suit.

21. Philadelphia Eagles – TCU WR Jalen Reagor at No. 21

The Eagles see a net movement of zero in the value rankings, as they rank 21 for picking TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor with the 21st overall pick. The pick by itself is very solid and should yield early dividends for the Eagles’ offense. Reagor is an explosive athlete with the playmaking ability to be a coveted weapon for Carson Wentz.

One of Reagor’s greatest traits is his speed and field-stretching ability, and so the Eagles, who drafted numerous other speed threats later on, could have perhaps acquired a more polished prospect with better variety in Justin Jefferson. But Reagor provides enough upside as a well-rounded receiving threat, and in an offense that doesn’t dilute his talent, he should be able to generate dividends for the Eagles’ investment.

20. New Orleans Saints – Michigan OL Cesar Ruiz at No. 24

Twenty out of 32 feels like a low ranking, but there aren’t enough bad value picks to make this an accurate scale. For our purposes here, being in the top 20 is where you want to be, and even if you’re not, there were only a couple picks with truly bad value on paper this year.

The Saints snuck into the top 20 with their selection of Cesar Ruiz, a pick which now has increased value after the team chose to release Pro Bowl offensive guard Larry Warford. Interior offensive line was a position that lacked a clear-cut number one player this offseason, and thus, the pick of Ruiz might have been doable with a trade back. But Ruiz provides solid initial utility and long-term upside for New Orleans, and he helps provide continuity on the line as well.

19. Arizona Cardinals – Clemson DEF Isaiah Simmons at No. 8

This was a tough one to rank, as some had Isaiah Simmons as a potential top-five selection in the 2020 NFL Draft. He certainly had the talent to go that high, but although he slipped to eight, his selection isn’t automatically one of value. He could end up being one of the biggest steals, but a lot has to happen for him to reach his peak potential.

What makes Simmons such an interesting prospect, and what also erodes at his value with the Cardinals, is the fact that how he’s utilized ultimately impacts the overall value he provides. The presence of Vance Joseph, therefore, clouds the projection of Simmons, as Joseph has gone on the record stating that Simmons will ultimately be a linebacker primarily. The role definition, while comforting, is something that might ultimately dilute Simmons’ upside as a true chess piece, and subtract from the value he brings in the future.

18. Las Vegas Raiders – Alabama WR Henry Ruggs III at No. 12

The Raiders toppled the first wide receiver domino of the 2020 NFL Draft when they selected Alabama wideout Henry Ruggs III at 12. Naming a WR1 in the 2020 class was a subjective exercise for each draft evaluator, as Ruggs, Jerry Jeudy, and CeeDee Lamb were all fairly close together.

In the end, concerns with analytics and production were enough to tip the scales against Ruggs for me, and he wound up being my WR3 — still a strong prospect, but behind Jeudy and Lamb due to security. The Raiders’ selection of Ruggs is far within the realm of reason; they needed speed, and they got it. But he was the first of the three chosen, and because the evaluation gap is small, his value is the lowest of the bunch.

17. Jacksonville Jaguars – LSU EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson at No. 20

The Jaguars’ selection of K’Lavon Chaisson should really be ranked higher, but this is the part of the article where the very good value deals start to cluster a bit. Being ranked just inside the bottom half shouldn’t be an indicator of this pick’s value; the Jaguars got a first-day starter on the edge with tremendous upside.

Chaisson’s collegiate production and room for development proved to be the difference in this very close value race, but make no mistake: Chaisson was an excellent addition for Jacksonville at 20. It might take a year or two for him to hit his stride, but he’s coming into the NFL on the uptrend, and he has the burst, bend, and speed around the edge to be a pass-rushing menace in due time.

16. San Francisco 49ers – South Carolina DL Javon Kinlaw at No. 14

If you’re an NFL team who made it onto the second page, you can give yourself a pat on the back. The bad picks are far behind us, but these are the selections with which teams masterfully played the draft board, and achieved maximum value. The difference between each selection from this point on is minuscule, and it starts with the San Francisco 49ers’ addition of Javon Kinlaw at 14.

It helps the 49ers that they managed to add a mid-round selection by swapping with the Buccaneers. Javon Kinlaw was taken about where he was expected to go, so they didn’t mount an elaborate heist here. But Kinlaw, while somewhat underdeveloped, has the length, athleticism, and relentlessness to soon make DeForest Buckner nothing more than a memory in gold country.

15. Detroit Lions – Ohio State CB Jeffrey Okudah at No. 3

Before the 2020 NFL Draft, only two cornerbacks — Shawn Springs and Bruce Pickens — had ever been selected in the top three in NFL history. Jeffrey Okudah became the third. Cornerback is historically a position that offers depth, and in 2020, this was no different, as one of the deepest classes in years came into the fold. That depth dictates that the Lions could have addressed this position later on while adding talent elsewhere at three.

That said, Okudah was a prospect of a similar caliber to his draft position. His combination of high-floor and high-upside traits made him one of the few blue-chip prospects in the class, and given the Lions’ dire need at cornerback, Okudah was very much worth the third overall pick. The value won’t be on par with some of the steals farther down the list, but Okudah should do what’s expected of a top-three pick, and fill in very nicely next to Justin Coleman and Amani Oruwariye.

14. New York Giants – Georgia OT Andrew Thomas at No. 4

Some were quick to chide the New York Giants for selecting the “fourth-best” offensive tackle with the fourth overall pick, but truthfully, all four of the top tackles in the 2020 NFL Draft had resumes worthy of taking early, and Andrew Thomas was one of the safest in that group. His selection was not a reach, and it was ultimately a smart move by Dave Gettleman.

The Georgia product sometimes gets buried beneath Wirfs’ athleticism, Becton’s size, and Wills’ power, but Thomas is arguably the most complete tackle prospect in his class, possessing the length, balance, and hand technique to be a consistent starter in the NFL.

Because the Giants could have gotten one of the other four later on via a trade back, their selection of Thomas won’t be in the highest value tier. That said, as long as Thomas locks down one side of the line for the foreseeable future, he’ll provide enough value to rank in the Top-15.

13. New York Jets – Louisville OT Mekhi Becton at No. 11

New York signed George Fant, Greg Van Roten, and Connor McGovern in free agency, but even that wasn’t enough to shore up their offensive line to the desired degree. Blocking has been a problem for a long time for the Jets, and so even with the aforementioned free agent acquisitions, it felt right for Joe Douglas to address tackle at 11.

The Jets’ selection of Mekhi Becton is similar in value to the Giants’ selection of Thomas. Becton’s floor is lower than Thomas, so it makes sense that he doesn’t go quite as high, but Becton is still very much a potential blue-chip prospect, and his acquisition compounds the improvements the Jets made on the offensive line, at a good price.

12. Baltimore Ravens – LSU LB Patrick Queen at No. 28

While the Chargers traded up for a linebacker on the first night of the draft, the Ravens, who had a more pressing need at the position, stood firm at No. 28 and let the board come to them. They were ultimately the beneficiaries of their own patience, as they were able to nab Patrick Queen, who some rank over Kenneth Murray, at the tail end of the first round.

While Queen isn’t quite the size-speed athlete that Murray is, the LSU product boasts impressive range in his own right, as well as the vision, football intelligence, and tackling prowess needed to be a reliable mid-level defender. It’s a great value haul for Baltimore, who improved their defense without giving up any mid-round assets. It just so happens that they would use the extra picks, as they turned in one of the best performances of the 2020 NFL Draft.

11. Minnesota Vikings – LSU WR Justin Jefferson at No. 22

The Vikings truly had an incredible draft, acquiring value at essentially every possible juncture. They started off on a high note as well, using the pick they got by trading Stefon Diggs to add his perceived replacement: LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

By my rankings, Jefferson was the fourth-best wide receiver in this class, and he was a legitimate challenger to the triumvirate of Ruggs, Jeudy, and Lamb. Jefferson is a very well-rounded prospect with the athleticism, crisp nuance, body control, and contested-catch ability to make an instant impact. It seems premature to say that the Vikings won’t miss Diggs, but Jefferson has a chance to carve out a similarly positive legacy, and early.

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