The first round of the virtually-held NFL Draft is done. There was less trading at the top of the draft than normal, and a number of picks that we expected actually did come to fruition. That is before the back half of the NFL Draft unfolded and gave us some surprising picks that no one saw coming. Of these, there were pleasant surprises and others that left us scratching our heads. As such, here are the winners and losers from Round 1 of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Winner: Minnesota Vikings
Minnesota hit a home run with both of their picks. Coming in, their two most significant needs were wide receiver and cornerback, and to not only address those but get two first-round talents while doing it has to feel good for Vikings fans.
Justin Jefferson’s fit might be slightly murky since both he and Adam Thielen thrive best from the slot. But regardless of that, Jefferson can win on the boundary and can still thrive on the outside, as can Thielen. Kirk Cousins will undoubtedly be happy that he now has a new target to replace Stefon Diggs that can get open and be a security blanket over the middle of the field. That is a slam dunk pick.
In addition, Jeff Gladney was one of the best value picks of the entire round. The feisty, fluid and instinctive Gladney gives the Vikings some much-needed help at cornerback after losing Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, and Mackensie Alexander. With Mike Hughes and Holton Hill still there, the Vikings might still need another cornerback later in the draft, but Gladney can be the top cornerback on the depth chart. Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer hit a home run with their first two picks in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Loser: Seattle Seahawks
This is becoming a theme with the Seahawks. First, it was Rashaad Penny, then L.J. Collier, and now, it is Jordyn Brooks. Seattle has a knack for reaching for talents in the first-round, and Brooks is no exception as he is an athlete that is still raw at this current time.
Seattle needed help at linebacker, that was something that they had to address in the draft coming into it. However, not only did they reach on Brooks, who struggles with shedding blocks and processing his keys, but they passed up on a superior player in Patrick Queen. Queen has better coverage ability and instincts, and as such, it does not make sense at all for why Seattle passed on Queen if they were looking at linebacker. All around, it is just a questionable pick for a guy who is far more athlete than football player right now.
Winner: Dallas Cowboys
The Cowboys got perhaps the steal of the draft as CeeDee Lamb slid down the board right into their laps at pick 17. It was not their biggest need by any means, but there was no way Dallas was passing up the opportunity to pair Amari Cooper with Lamb.
Lamb, who is the top wide receiver on many big boards, is an electric player after the catch with elite ball skills and body control. In Dallas, he is going to be making a ton of highlight catches with Dak Prescott. This pick just made an excellent Cowboys offense that much more dangerous and hard to prep for with Michael Gallup there as well to create a nice trio of receivers. The rest of the NFC East can not be happy.
Loser: Los Angeles Chargers
This one is not about Justin Herbert. Yes, Herbert has a good deal of bust potential. Still, with his upside and physical tools, I can live with him being picked into a system where his style perfectly meshes with the vertical aerial assault that the Chargers often like to employ.
However, the fact that the Chargers traded back up into the first round to grab Kenneth Murray when a better linebacker in Patrick Queen was still on the board does baffle me a bit. Murray is a great downhill player with good athleticism but lacks coverage ability and processing to truly take advantage of his gifts to become a complete three-down linebacker.
It is fine to bank on his upside, but not when a superior player who can make more impact from day one and even in the future is right there for the taking as well. The pick should have been Queen, that is the bottom line.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers
I love what the 49ers did tonight. They traded DeForest Buckner and come out with Javon Kinlaw after trading back to recoup draft capital as well. Kinlaw is Chris Jones all over again; the only question will be his medicals. His upside as a pass rusher is ridiculous. Kinlaw has the explosiveness, power, and length to dominant along that 49ers defensive line.
Then, they trade back up for Brandon Aiyuk, who, while not my top choice on my big board, is an absolute steal for the 49ers. Senior Bowl Director Jim Nagy hinted that Aiyuk could be a first-round pick back in January, and he could not have landed in a better spot than San Francisco. He is a guy who struggles with press, but Shanahan does a great job of scheming his offense to his players’ strengths. Expect Aiyuk to be able to destroy teams after the catch because that is what he does so well. With Shanahan scheming to get Aiyuk free releases, his stock is up through the roof.
Loser: Atlanta Falcons
This is another team that reached when there were simply better talents on the board. A.J. Terrell is a nice cornerback prospect that I would love to take on day two of the draft because he is fluid, smooth and sticky. But there are traits that hold him back from warranting the 16th overall pick that Atlanta had.
Terrell lacks adequate play strength and gets bullied by bigger or more physical receivers. That is what happened with Ja’Marr Chase, and Terrell needs to hit the weight room to play with better strength. Also, there just are not a lot of instances where Terrell flashed ball skills. This is not a ballhawk, and creating turnovers is more important than ever. That is something that cannot be overlooked. The Falcons are not getting a bad player by any means, but Terrell is not good value.
Winner: Cleveland Browns
The Browns needed to add protection to help Baker Mayfield, and they did just that. Jedrick Wills is arguably the best tackle in the draft with elite footwork and movement skills. Pairing him with Jack Conklin, Cleveland now has a pair of tackles that should allow for Baker Mayfield to feel far more comfortable in the pocket than he did a year ago.
Not only is Wills just that good, but he was great value at 10th overall. He was a legitimate top-5 talent in this class, and Cleveland hit a home run to begin Kevin Stefanski’s tenure as Browns head coach.
Loser Green Bay Packers
I like the idea of Jordan Love going to a team where he can sit for a few years and learn behind an aging quarterback. That hopefully will help him reach his ceiling, which is just incredibly high with his arm talent and playmaking ability.
However, I do not think the Packers were the team that should be doing this right now considering where they are at with Aaron Rodgers. To come off of an NFC Championship appearance and be just a few pieces away from a Super Bowl only to pass up on helping your current franchise quarterback is a questionable decision at best.
Rodgers may not be the complete player he once was, but he is still an outstanding quarterback capable of winning a championship with Green Bay. As such, I just do not get this one at all. It should have been a receiver or linebacker for the Packers. Get help now and help your future Hall of Famer under center win a Super Bowl.
Winner: Denver Broncos
Just look at the fit of Jerry Jeudy with that Denver offense! With the size of Courtland Sutton already in the receiving corps, Jeudy can be a deep threat and a guy that gets a ton of separation out of the slot. The Broncos needed someone who could do damage after the catch, and Jeudy is the guy that brings that to the offense.
With Drew Lock at the helm, the vertical passing offense of Denver is looking very strong right now, including last year’s first-round pick Noah Fant. It is an offense that is going to have playmaking ability all around, and that should excite Broncos fans. Jeudy is not just a great fit, but a fantastic value as well.
Loser: Arizona Cardinals
I hate to do this, but I have to do it. Isaiah Simmons is a freakish athlete, and the talent is apparent. The man is an absolute freak that just made plays all over the field at multiple positions for Clemson. However, where does Simmons fit? That was always the question throughout the draft process. He had to go to the right place that would use him to his full capabilities.
Simmons is just another guy in a long line of hybrids such as Haason Reddick and Deone Buchanan that the Cardinals have failed to use correctly. Vance Joseph is not a guy known to be a creative defensive coordinator, and as such, this genuinely worries me for Simmons’s NFL outlook. Hopefully, he reaches his full potential, but I have serious doubts based on the landing spot.