Full Round 1 2020 N.F.L. Picks and Analysis


Live, from Roger Goodell’s basement, the primary spherical of the N.F.L. draft provided one thing of a shock present on Thursday evening: An opportunity to concentrate on picks over spectacle with a clean run via the highest 32 picks.

But principally the so-called digital draft performed out as an intimate event, taking the viewers into younger gamers’ properties as their futures took form.

Here’s a have a look at how the primary spherical went, decide by decide. The second and third rounds are scheduled for Friday, starting at 7 p.m., and the draft ends with 4 extra rounds on Saturday.

Louisiana State. 6-foot-Three, 221 kilos

Burrow, the Heisman Trophy winner, threw for 5,671 yards and set a Football Bowl Subdivision record with 60 touchdown passes — the final 12 of which came in his last two games, blowouts over Oklahoma and Clemson, to propel L.S.U. to a national title. Only one other player won the Heisman and the national championship, and was chosen first over all, in the same year: Cam Newton, in 2011.

“To jump up to No. 1 overall is just crazy to me but it’s a dream come true,” Burrow said.

Quarterbacks drafted early often join teams bereft of, or at least lacking in, offensive talent. In that respect, the Bengals are an anomaly. Burrow enters a reasonably favorable situation, with A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd and John Ross at receiver and Joe Mixon at running back. Preparing for Burrow’s arrival, Cincinnati fortified its defense in free agency, signing cornerbacks Mackensie Alexander and Trae Waynes, defensive lineman D.J. Reader and linebacker Josh Bynes.

No matter how well Burrow plays, the Bengals, in all likelihood, won’t be making the playoffs this season. But the team probably won’t be 2-14 like it was in 2019, and for the first time in a long time, they’ll be exciting, and interesting, again.

Coach Ron Rivera was hired to restore pride and discipline (and winning seasons) to a decaying franchise, and for a defensive-minded coach, buttressing the pass rush with the best defensive end prospect in the class is a reasonable way to start. Chase Young, who led the F.B.S. last season with 16½ sacks, joins a reconfigured defensive front — Rivera switched to a 4-3 from a 3-4 — that will allow him, as well as other ends Ryan Kerrigan and the 2019 first-round pick Montez Sweat, to concentrate on doing what they do best: harass the quarterback.

At Ohio State, Young learned from the renowned defensive line coach Larry Johnson Sr., who also tutored, among others, Nick and Joey Bosa, Aaron Maybin, and Tamba Hali. Johnson challenged himself to find flaws in Young’s technique, analyzing film in slow motion, and together they produced what might be the best over all player in the draft.

That’s Young’s opinion, at least. “I definitely think I’m the best player in the draft,” Young said at the league’s scouting combine. “I think I showed it on my tape.”

He started one year for the Buckeyes, who deployed him much like the Jets handled Darrelle Revis in his prime, lining him up alone in man-to-man coverage

Okudah projects as a marvelous fit with the Lions for a simple reason: What team wouldn’t want a shutdown cornerback?

On the precipice of his N.F.L. career, Thomas still draws on his musical background. “It’s the same thing in football,” he said. “Something may happen that’s unexpected, and how well you respond can change the end of the game.”

Instead of competing in the SEC, he had season-ending surgery. Instead of going No. 1 overall, he was surpassed by Burrow. The focus among scouts wasn’t about whether he was a good fit for an N.F.L. team’s offense, but whether he was durable enough to play well again. Tagovailoa was unable to hold his own pro day because of the coronavirus pandemic, so teams were unable to watch him throw live. Instead, he posted video of himself training on social media. Obviously, the Dolphins are comfortable with his health.

Their general manager, Chris Grier, was with the Dolphins (in a different capacity) in 2006, when the team opted for Daunte Culpepper, who wound up playing only one season in Miami. As for Brees, well, he won a Super Bowl in New Orleans and is an all-time great. Now the Dolphins hope that Tagovailoa redeems them.

The Los Angeles Chargers’ professed adoration for Tyrod Taylor as a possible long-term replacement for Philip Rivers was a total smokescreen.

Standing 6-foot-6, 237 pounds, Herbert’s size and arm strength are consistent with a prototypical N.F.L. quarterback, and he led the Ducks to a Pac-12 championship and a victory at the Rose Bowl in January with not much talent at receiver.

Coming from the college ranks, new Panthers coach Matt Rhule, who was at Baylor, might have a slight advantage — but what is he looking for? As it happens, Rhule wanted the best defensive lineman in the Southeastern Conference, if not the country.

Rodney Garner, who coaches Auburn’s defensive line, likened Brown to an amalgam of two N.F.L. stars he tutored at Georgia. Brown, he said, has the athleticism of Richard Seymour and the power of Marcus Stroud. “Coaching Derrick Brown was easy,” Garner said in a recent interview. “In my 31 years, I’ve coached some really good defensive linemen. It’s been a blessing. And he’s right there at the top of the list.”

According to Pro Football Focus, Simmons, listed at 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds, played at least 100 snaps at five positions — slot cornerback, edge rusher, linebacker and both safety spots — and finished with 16½ tackles for a loss, eight sacks, eight pass deflections and three interceptions. “In a league that doesn’t have a lot of margin for error when it comes to roster management, I think you immediately get more than one person,” Brent Venables, his defensive coordinator at Clemson, said in a recent interview.

Simmons counterbalances the raft of hybridized offensive players permeating the N.F.L. He has the build, speed and length to counter players like San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle and Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey, who often cause mismatches. Modern defenses prioritize pressuring the quarterback and stopping the pass, and Simmons can do both.

That defense is unrecognizable now, having been disassembled in fits and spurts, but especially this off-season, when cornerback A.J. Bouye, defensive end Calais Campbell and defensive tackle Marcell Dareus all departed.

Henderson can play multiple techniques, man and off, and over the last two seasons, he yielded just 20 receptions, on 44 targets, in single coverage on the boundary, according to Pro Football Focus, making him a prime candidate to start there as a rookie.

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network’s draft honcho, said in a recent conference call that Henderson has more upside than the consensus top corner, Jeff Okudah of Ohio State, but he must improve his tackling and consistency playing the ball downfield.

The Browns used this opportunity to finally fill the left tackle spot that Joe Thomas vacated when he retired three years ago.

At Alabama, Jedrick Wills Jr. anchored the right side of the offensive line for two years, allowing only one sack and three-and-a-half quarterback hurries on 714 snaps last season.

He played in 11 games in his first season, then replaced Matt Womack at right tackle the following year, when he started all 15 games. His stature grew last season, when he was voted second-team all-American and first-team all-SEC while starting all 13 games at right tackle.

In Cleveland, he’ll likely switch to the left side to protect Baker Mayfield’s blind side. Jack Conklin will probably anchor the right side.

Born to a basketball family — his father coaches at his high school, in Lexington, Ky., and his mom played at Eastern Kentucky — Wills started walking at five months old, his mother once said. “He didn’t do a lot of crawling. He was big and strong and stout, and he just got up one day and took off.” Guess what? He’s still big and strong and stout.

Like the Giants, the Jets very much need an anchor at offensive tackle to protect their young quarterback, as well as pass-rush help. The Jets allowed 52 sacks last season, the fourth-most in the N.F.L.

The son of a transportation supervisor and a caterer (“That’s why I’m so big,” he said at the scouting combine), Becton ran the fastest 40-yard dash (5.1) for a player his size since 2006. In ninth grade, he shot up five inches, to 6-foot-5, and when his doctor told his mother, Semone, that his growth plate was still open — he wasn’t done growing yet — she was stunned. The hardest part, she told the Louisville Courier-Journal, was buying him clothes: “Within a couple months, they’re high-waters. You buy these nice tennis shoes, then he skips a size and you have to pass them on to someone else.”

He does want to lose about 10-15 pounds, to play around 350-355, in the N.F.L., where his nimble feet and unadulterated power would allow him to play either tackle position. Also, he can dunk.

At Alabama, he was more of a deep threat, averaging 17.5 yards a reception, as the speedy complement to Jerry Jeudy. Ruggs III was also a kick returner his freshman and junior years.

His mom, Nataki, ran track in Kansas, and she has said that she ran a 4.23 during a workout once.

“If you ask me, she never ran that time,” Ruggs said at the combine. “I knew she was pretty fast. She used to run in the neighborhood, run against guys all the time and beat them. And we used to race when I was young — but I was young. I was small, didn’t have long legs, didn’t really know too much about running. Her track background helped her out when we were racing to the car at the grocery store, stuff like that. But ultimately, she’ll tell you that she’s not faster than me. Maybe in her prime, she felt like it. But … no.”

Tristan Wirfs should help. His diverse athletic background — his past in wrestling, in particular — informed his approach to playing offensive tackle. An absolute mauler in the run game and a reliable pass-blocker, Wirfs played mostly right tackle at Iowa and ceded only 40 quarterback pressures on 1,138 pass-blocking snaps at Iowa, according to Pro Football Focus.

“In wrestling, you need footwork, you need balance, awareness, body control — all that translates to offensive line,” Wirfs said in a recent interview. “You don’t get into big scrambles like you do in wrestling on the offensive line, but you still can get out of sorts and get your center of gravity off-kilter. To find that center of gravity and hopefully finish a block, it’s just like putting a guy on his back in wrestling.”

In a draft class loaded with premier offensive tackles, and playing a position reserved for the most powerful of dudes, Wirfs manages to stand out. He won three consecutive state titles in the discus, two in the shot put and one in wrestling, in the 285-pound weight class, in addition to playing football.

Wirfs’s mother, Sarah, raised him and his sister, Kaylia, rushing to their athletic pursuits after her shift at Target, where she has worked for 28 years (naturally, his favorite job of his mother’s was in the bakery, since she would bring home snacks). Just before the draft began, he invited Sarah to walk a makeshift red carpet in front of their home, to acknowledge her support.

The San Francisco 49ers have two first-round selections, but none in Rounds 2 through 4. That means general manager John Lynch will want to quickly fill their biggest holes, including shoring up their interior defensive line after trading DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts for the 13th pick in this year’s draft, which they swapped with Tampa Bay.

The 49ers took Javon Kinlaw from South Carolina, an outstanding pass rusher with long arms, to replace Buckner.

At the scouting combine, Kinlaw called himself “a boring person,” but he has neither lived a boring life, nor, as a pocket-collapsing, backfield-prowling defensive tackle, is he a boring player. As his mother labored to find contracting work throughout his childhood, Kinlaw and his two brothers bounced around dangerous areas of Washington, D.C. looking for shelter. Kinlaw regularly switched schools and in the ninth grade moved to South Carolina to live with his father, George. Kinlaw has said that felt so unsafe with George sometimes that he would look for somewhere else to stay.

Eventually, at Goose Creek High School, he befriended Timothy Davis, whose parents, Calvin and Monica, took him in. Kinlaw identified the turning point in his life as making it to college, first to junior college in Mississippi, then to South Carolina, where he became a first-team all-American. “Just having three meals,” Kinlaw said at the combine. “I always tell people I didn’t go to junior college for football, really. I just went because I had somewhere to sleep. I had free food. That’s really why I went. I didn’t go with the expectation that, ‘Man, I’m going to go to the SEC, I’m going to go to the league. I went because I had somewhere to sleep.’’’

After plucking Courtland Sutton in the second round last year, the Denver Broncos needed to complement him with another receiver, preferably one who can stretch the field now that Pro Bowl wideout Emmanuel Sanders has left for New Orleans.

Jerry Jeudy, a polished route-runner who can line up anywhere in a formation, fits that description. Jeudy was teammates with Henry Ruggs III at Alabama. They became the fifth pair of college receivers from the same school taken in the first round since 1967.

And it wasn’t the traditional handshake and hug that have come to mark N.F.L. draft picks, but Jeudy convinced Roger Goodell to perform the Toosie Slide dance with him on social media.

As a sophomore, Jeudy won the Fred Biletnikoff Award as the best college wide receiver in the country. He caught 68 passes for 1,315 yards and 14 touchdowns that year. His numbers dipped a bit as a junior, when he caught 77 passes for 1,163 yards and 10 touchdowns, and was named to the all-SEC team for the second time.

Jeudy grew up in South Florida playing with Lamar Jackson, who, he said, taught him how to juke. His 7-year-old sister, Aaliyah — who lived her whole life with breathing tubes, according to reports — died while he played in a state playoff game as a high school senior in 2016 and he has since dedicated his career to her memory.

Before the draft, Jeudy showed up to a news conference at the combine in February wearing a Jewish star medallion. Asked about it, he said, “My last name, Jeudy, people sometimes call me Jeu (Jew?), like one Jew. So I got a Jewish star. I’m not Jewish though.” Thanks for clarifying, Jerry.

The priority for the Atlanta Falcons is improving the defense — everywhere. No, really. Everywhere. They were 23rd in defense last season, allowing 24.9 points per game, and the team plays in a division with Drew Brees and the Saints as well as Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, two teams that promise to score a lot of points this coming season.

To fend off those gunslingers, the Falcons took A.J. Terrell, a cornerback from Clemson. Terrell’s struggles toward the end of 2019 — Ja’Marr Chase of Louisiana State disassembled him during the national championship game — offset a strong career at Clemson, where he intercepted six passes and defended 11 more during his three seasons in the Tigers’ secondary.

His tackles, though, declined last season, a comedown from a superb second year. No doubt, Dan Quinn, a defensive minded head coach, will work on that.

The Cowboys’ decision hinged on the irreconcilable impulses of their owner, Jerry Jones, who was presented with an ideal, if unexpected, conundrum: Take the best receiver available or an edge-rushing bookend to complement DeMarcus Lawrence?

Dallas went for offense, grabbing CeeDee Lamb (6-foot-2, 198 pounds), who averaged 21.4 yards on his 62 receptions and 14 touchdowns last season at Oklahoma, to a receiving corps that already has Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.

In addition to putting up nearly 3,300 receiving yards and 32 touchdown receptions in three college seasons, he was also the main punt returner for the Sooners. Lamb lived in New Orleans — “being a kid from Louisiana, that’s all we knew was Reggie Bush” — until Hurricane Katrina forced his family to move to Houston. Asked at the combine where his work ethic comes from, he said, “It’s kind of being in a dark place at a young age and not having everything that I wanted growing up. It pushes me a lot to get a lot of things that I want now, and it all comes with work. So why not work for what I want? I’d rather work than it just be given to me.”

Southern California. 6-5, 322

Jackson’s younger sister, Autumn, has a rare inherited type of anemia that prevents bone marrow from producing red blood cells. A 100 percent match, Jackson last summer donated his bone marrow to Autumn, who, he said at the combine, is making a full recovery in their hometown of Phoenix. “I’m glad I could do it,” Jackson said. “I feel like everybody would have done it for their little sister or sibling.”

He couldn’t train for three weeks after the procedure, which took place in his lower back. “I had to take the whole off-season to go home and be with her and train on my own. I couldn’t afford to get sick. Otherwise the procedure would have been prolonged. I battled back through fall camp and through the season to gain my strength back.”

The Raiders, after failing to reach an agreement with the free agent Eli Apple, addressed their cornerback need with Damon Arnette (6-foot-0, 195 pounds).

Arnette was all set to declare for the draft last year — according to The Athletic, he had written up his announcement — before a conversation with a longtime family friend, the former N.F.L. receiver Cris Carter (also a former Buckeye), changed his mind.

Carter told Arnette that he wasn’t ready to play in the N.F.L. yet, and though his words stung, they were helpful.

“He has never really steered me wrong,” Arnette said at the scouting combine. “He’s always been there when it comes to making major decisions in my life. I respect him for that. I love him for that.” Arnette returned to Ohio State much improved, and as a senior he had eight passes defended and an interception, which he returned 96 yards for a touchdown against Indiana.

By the time he arrived at the league’s scouting combine seven weeks later, his confidence had only soared.

Asked what distinguished him from other defensive linemen, Chaisson said:“It’s obvious. I’m going to be honest. I’m actually the most valuable player in the draft, when it comes to it. We all know that. When you hire someone do you want to hire someone who speaks one language or do you want to hire someone that speaks three languages? I speak three languages. I do pass rush. I can drop in coverage and cover anybody you want me to cover. I can play the run. And no offensive lineman has ever just moved me off the ball, or bullied me. So I feel like that’s what makes me more dimensional. And a more valuable player than anybody else in the draft.”

Texas Christian. 5-11, 206

The Vikings lost not one, not two, but three cornerbacks (Mackensie Alexander, Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes). Considering the value elsewhere in the draft, the team might feel it can address that position at No. 25.

After trading Stefon Diggs to Buffalo, Minnesota needs a receiver to complement Adam Thielen, and Justin Jefferson does that.

Jefferson (6-foot-1, 202 pounds) starred in the slot at Louisiana State, where former offensive coach Joe Brady schemed him open for easy receptions off run-pass option plays, screens and downfield balls in the Tigers’ high-powered spread offense.

He had a monster junior year, catching an N.C.A.A.-best 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. Maybe he was destined to make it to the N.F.L., too: He placed third at the national Punt/Pass/Kick championship when he was 9 years old.

Los Angeles traded up to select Kenneth Murray, a sideline-to-sideline force at Oklahoma, where he had 36½ tackles for loss over his three seasons. And Murray (6-foot-2, 241 pounds) has a background as impressive as his football career. The son of a retired police officer, Dianna, and a pastor, Kenneth Sr., Murray has one biological sibling, a sister, and three adopted siblings, all of whom have a genetic disorder that has delayed their physical and mental development. They joined the family when Murray was 10, in fifth grade.

Murray said at the scouting combine that he has learned how to be “truly selfless” from them, and he is ever more cognizant of his responsibility to maximize his ability. “Every time I come home, they can’t talk but they know who I am and they know my voice, they know when I touch them,” Murray said.

Growing up, he would volunteer at a community center for underprivileged children, and there he learned C.P.R., training that proved critical last July. He and his girlfriend were returning from church in Norman, Okla., when they noticed a woman stricken on the ground at an intersection. He parked his car in the middle of the street, rushed over and was able to revive her.

This is probably Drew Brees’s last season. He already has his next gig lined up, you know? But instead of loading up what just might be the N.F.C.’s best roster with a playmaking linebacker or a yards-after-the-catch receiving dynamo, the Saints fortified the interior of their offensive line with Cesar Ruiz (6-foot-3, 307 pounds).

The position has been a bit of a hole for the team after longtime center Max Unger retired before the 2019 season.

Ruiz was the top center prospect in the country out of high school. At Michigan, he started at right guard as a freshman, and steadily improved the next two seasons. Ruiz is considered athletic, aggressive and quick, and could start at guard or center, though he may be overmatched against larger defensive linemen.

The San Francisco 49ers acquired the Vikings’ pick at No. 25 and sent their 31st pick and two others in later rounds to Minnesota. With Deebo Samuel as their top receiver, they need to give quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo another top target. So they chose Brandon Aiyuk, the speedster from Arizona State.

Aiyuk a junior college transfer excels in grabbing yardage after the catch. No, like, really excels. In mid-October, according a story by The Athletic, Aiyuk was averaging more yards after the catch (13.6) than Jerry Jeudy was averaging per catch. “My background is at running back,” Aiyuk said. “It’s like being a back again after the catch. I think it’s the strength of my game and it really makes a difference.” He finished with 1,192 yards and eight touchdowns last season in Tempe.

Jim Nagy, the 18-year N.F.L. scout who is now the executive director of the Senior Bowl, said Love has the potential to develop into the best quarterback taken this year but that, ideally, he will sit for a season. “In hindsight, we’re all saying, ‘How the heck did Patrick Mahomes last to 12?’” Nagy said, referencing the pick Kansas City used to draft him. “If Jordan gets to the right situation and everything clicks for him, we’re going to be sitting here in three or four years saying, ‘How did players X, Y and Z get drafted ahead of Jordan Love?’”

The Seattle Seahawks, who are defensive minded but have slipped in recent years, chose Jordyn Brooks, a linebacker from Texas Tech. He led the team in tackles in three of his seasons at Tech. He also had 20 tackles for loss and three sacks last year, when he injured his shoulder.

Though the Legion of Boom is gone, Seattle still has a good core of linebackers including Bobby Wagner, one of the best tacklers in the game.

Brooks will probably be tested early and often because the Seahawks play in one of the most competitive divisions in the league, the N.F.C. West, which includes the 49ers and the Rams.

The Baltimore Ravens lost Marshal Yanda, perhaps the best guard in the league, to retirement, creating need on the interior of their offensive line. They will have to handle that later as they instead focused on linebacker to alleviate the stress on a defense that labored to generate pressure without a blitzing edge-rusher last season.

From an early age, Queen was so athletically proficient — he dribbled basketballs with both hands, blasted home runs, and hurt others while playing tackle football — that his parents, Mary Sue and Dwayne, who played cornerback at Nicholls State, had to show his birth certificate to prove his age. He remains a marvel.

The team lost right tackle Jack Conklin in free agency, and they’ve replaced him with Isaiah Wilson, a tackle from Georgia.

Wilson started slow at Georgia but his size (6-foot-6, 350 pounds) and athleticism paid dividends, as he started all 14 games at right tackle and earned freshman all-American honors. An ankle injury limited him to 11 games the following year, but still was named to the second-team Associated Press All-American. His play was at times uneven, particularly in pass protection, but he excelled in man-to-man blocks. He may need to improve his footwork to keep up in zone-blocking schemes.

Miami traded its 26th pick to the Packers, who offered the 30th pick in return. The Dolphins took a top shelf quarterback (Tua Tagovailoa) and one of the best offensive tackles available (Austin Jackson) with its first two picks.

So it made sense that the team focused on adding to the defense with its third first-round pick. In Noah Igbinoghene, a cornerback from Auburn, gives Miami a solid defensive backfield.

A coveted recruit at receiver, Igbinoghene moved to cornerback after his freshman year of college. He started his final two seasons, defending 19 passes and recording one interception. He started all 13 games (42 tackles, one for loss, seven pass break-ups) last year. He’s also a good kick returner, returning one of nine kickoff returns for a touchdown.

Noah Igbinoghene grew up in an athletic household — his mother, Faith, won a bronze medal for Nigeria in the 400-meter relay at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, and his father, Festus, competed for Nigeria in triple jump at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Igbinoghene competed in both football and track and field at Auburn.

Even if the 5-foot-10 Gladney doesn’t stick as a boundary corner because of his size, his coverage skills, tenacity and feistiness make him an ideal candidate to flourish in the slot.

Instead, they opted to bolster their sterling offense by picking running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire from Louisiana State. The Chiefs’ leading rusher, Damien Williams, only rushed for 498 yards. But like most backs in Andy Reid’s offense, Edwards-Helaire will be asked to catch passes, too.

A big part of L.S.U.’s undefeated championship season, Edwards-Helaire rushed for 1,415 yards and 16 touchdowns, starting all but one of the teams’ games. He is also a versatile receiver, with 55 receptions last season, and a capable kick returner, helping him with all-SEC honors.



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