2021 NFL Mock Draft: Jets face tough decision at No. 1

The New York Jets are on a collision course for the first overall pick. I know it. Joe Douglas knows it. The whole NFL knows it. However, the Jets are in a very unique position. They are the least talented team in the league, but the organization believes it has a franchise quarterback.

Sam Darnold has had his ups and downs as a pro, but he also has had the worst set of receivers any quarterback could have asked for in his three seasons. In his last start, his go-to guy was Lawrence Cager, a rookie undrafted free agent. His supporting cast includes a 37-year-old Frank Gore, Patriots castoffs Braxton Berrios and Chris Hogan and an injured Jamison Crowder. Plus whatever you make of Chris Herndon at this stage.

Evaluating Darnold is hard as a result. He has committed a ton of turnovers, but he has never really been put in a position to succeed. His offensive line play finally improved this year, but injuries have already derailed his protection plan. He has also played for two coaches (likely to be three if he is on the roster next year) and two general managers in three seasons. His current head coach is arguably the worst in the NFL.

I believe Sam Darnold has what it takes to be a starter in this league. He might just need an improved supporting cast and some better coaching. In this mock draft, the Jets decide to go with Lawrence and send Darnold to Indianapolis for a 2021 conditional third-round pick (with a chance to become a second) and a 2022 sixth-round pick.

Darnold would take over in 2021 as the starter with Philip Rivers only on a one-year deal. Darnold gives them an instant starter with at two years left on his deal at a reasonable price. Indy still has Jacob Eason to develop in the meantime and Jacoby Brissett to step in if Darnold struggles or goes down with an injury.

Frank Reich would be the perfect coach to mentor Darnold and help him take the next step. He has plenty of talent, so a better system and better supporting cast will do him wonders.

Let’s get to the actual mock draft now. The current draft order is based on Super Bowl odds from Caesar’s Sportsbook. If you don’t like where your team is picking, you can take it up with them.

This looks like it has the makings to be a special class with some great quarterbacks and another group of talented wide receivers. Let’s get started!

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1. New York Jets (5000-1) – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
This team is going to have new leadership in 2021. Adam Gase will be out. Hopefully, New York can lure a top coaching candidate to work with Trevor Lawrence. He is far and away the best quarterback in this class. He is the best prospect I have seen since Andrew Luck came out of Stanford. The Jets seem to finally have some of the right pieces in place. Mekhi Becton looks awesome at left tackle. While the rest of the roster still needs an upgrade, having your franchise tackle and quarterback is a good place to start.

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2. Jacksonville Jaguars (2000-1) – Gregory Rousseau, EDGE, Miami
At the beginning of the year, if you had told me the Jaguars were picking second overall, I would have assured you they were taking a quarterback. However, Gardner Minshew has looked like the real deal. No, it hasn’t been perfect, but I believe it is enough for the team to consider building around him. While Penei Sewell is certainly an option here, only Carolina has fewer sacks this season than Jacksonville. Gregory Rousseau dominated the ACC in his one year as a starter. He opted out before 2020, but he will have every chance to solidify his status as a top-five pick during the pre-draft process.

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3. New York Giants (1000-1) – Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
2020 has been especially rough for the Giants. Saquon Barkley tore his ACL and the team has struggled to put up points this season. New York’s defense has actually been better than many expected though. I still don’t think that means the front office should pass on Micah Parsons. He is one of the best run defenders in college football and brings pass rushing ability as well. He could give the Giants a rock to build around on the defensive side of the ball.

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4. Cincinnati Bengals (1000-1) – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Joe Burrow looks like the answer to Cincinnati’s quarterback problems. If they don’t start blocking for him though, he might not be the answer for long. Burrow has been sacked an absurd 22 times in five games, by far the most in the NFL. Enter Penei Sewell. He would have likely been the first tackle taken in the 2020 NFL draft. You can pretty much count on him being the first one taken in the 2021 draft. He will step in at left tackle allowing Jonah Williams to move inside to guard or flip to right tackle.

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5. Washington Football Team (500-1) – Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Dwayne Haskins’ time is up in Washington. He got benched in Week 5 and I don’t think we will ever start again, barring injuries forcing him back into action. The front office could look to trade him this offseason. Regardless, the team will be looking for a new franchise quarterback. They can just replace Haskins with his successor at Ohio State. Justin Fields had an excellent season in 2019, leading the Buckeyes to the College Football Playoff. He has plenty of arm talent and great escapability. He could sit for a year behind Alex Smith or Kyle Allen before taking over as the starter.

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6. Atlanta Falcons (500-1) – Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama
Could Atlanta move on from Matt Ryan, or at least work on finding his successor? It’s not out of the question with both Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff fired on Sunday. However, he is effectively under contract through 2022. Outside of the dud against the Panthers, Ryan has not been the problem either. Atlanta’s defense has been arguably the worst in the league. Between injuries and a lack of talent, the secondary is atrocious. The Falcons reached on A.J. Terrell last year. Patrick Surtain would not be a reach. He has the chops to be a true lockdown corner and is reliable as a tackler. He has NFL pedigree and is battle tested coming out of the SEC.

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7. Detroit Lions (250-1) – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
I spent most of last offseason mocking quarterbacks to the Detroit Lions. Matt Stafford stepped up though before missing the final three quarters of the season with an injury. So far this season, he has not looked sharp. His completion percentage is 30th among 33 qualified quarterbacks through five weeks. Even if the Lions don’t move on from him before the start of the 2021 season, finding his successor could be something a new coaching staff and front office places a high priority on. Trey Lance might not have faced the same level of competition as Lawrence and Fields, but he has future franchise quarterback written all over him.

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8. Denver Broncos (250-1) – Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Denver’s secondary is incredibly young right now. However, the team needs to continue restocking after Chris Harris, Tremaine Brock and Bradley Roby all left over the past two seasons. Caleb Farley is the type of physical corner that could reshape the defense. Playing him across from A.J. Bouye when he returns from injury would give the Broncos a reliable starting duo on the outside with some Bryce Callahan holding down the slot.

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9. Miami Dolphins via Houston Texans (125-1) – Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
At some point, the team is going to be turned over to Tua Tagovailoa. He has two solid receivers in DeVante Parker and Preston Williams, but Miami should find him another pass catcher to work with. Ja’Marr Chase broke all kinds of records at LSU in 2019 while catching passes from Joe Burrow. He is a great route runner with the ability to take the top off a defense. He plays a lot bigger than his size as well. This Dolphins offense could be scary to face starting in 2021.

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10. Los Angeles Chargers (125-1) – Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas
L.A. tabbed Justin Herbert as it’s quarterback of the future. Now it needs to invest in protecting him. Samuel Cosmi is not the most polished prospect, but he has the size and length to project well as a starting tackle in the NFL. He has experience at both tackle spots and moves well for a player who is listed at 6’7″, 309 lbs. No matter which side he plays on, he will provide a nice boost to a Chargers offensive line that has struggled at times this season.

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11. Minnesota Vikings (125-1) – Marvin Wilson, DL, Florida State
Stopping the run has become a major issue for the Vikings. With Cosmi off the board, Minnesota can opt to plug up the middle of their defense. Florida State standout Marvin Wilson would be an instant upgrade over Jaleel Johnson or Shamar Stephen. Wilson has racked up 14 tackles for loss and nine sacks in his career. He would create an incredible front four with Danielle Hunter, Yannick Ngakoue and Michael Pierce. Unless there is a quarterback that slides to this point or the team decides to get aggressive by trading up, I think going best player available makes the most sense.

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12. Miami Dolphins (100-1) – Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
The Dolphins linebacking corps at this stage is mostly just ex-Patriots. The group could use an infusion of talent. Dylan Moses has sideline-to-sideline potential and a nose for the football. He has racked up 23 tackles and three tackles for loss in Alabama’s first three games this season. He missed all of 2019 due to a torn ACL, but seems to be back to full strength. His playmaking ability and leadership make him a great fit for Brian Flores’ defense.

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13. Philadelphia Eagles (50-1) – Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
Philadelphia hoped that acquiring Darius Slay would solve their secondary problems. He has held up his end of the bargain. The rest of the unit has not. The last defensive back the Eagles drafted in the first round was Lito Sheppard back in 2002. It is past time Philly dedicated draft capital to the position. Shaun Wade showed out as a nickle cornerback last season for Ohio State. Once the Big Ten season starts, he will get a chance to show he can play on the outside as well. He has the size and length to the play the position well.

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14. Carolina Panthers (50-1) – Wyatt Davis, G, Ohio State
Carolina is gaining momentum right now and seems set at a number of key positions. Teddy Bridgewater looks sharp at quarterback. The team is pretty deep at the skill positions and spent all of its draft picks on defense last season. The biggest hole the Panthers have is at left guard. Michael Schofield was a stop-gap solution after the team traded away Trai Turner. Wyatt Davis can step in and play the position at an extremely high level. He is a road grader with great pass blocking tools. He will be a big boost to this offense.

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15. Arizona Cardinals (40-1) – Creed Humphrey, C, Oklahoma
Arizona’s offensive line has been much better so far this season. After Kyler Murray took 45 sacks in 2019, the unit has only allowed eight so far this year. However, they could still use some help along the interior of the line. Creed Humphrey is about as polished of an interior line prospect as you will find in college football. He has started each of the past three years at Oklahoma, including 2018, when he was blocking for none other than Murray. This is a perfect fit that fills a huge need.

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16. San Francisco 49ers (35-1) – Alex Leatherwood, OL, Alabama
Injuries have decimated the 49ers so far this year. Suddenly, the team has a quarterback controversy on its hands as well. I don’t think San Francisco will be investing a first-round pick in a quarterback this year though. Instead, the front office should look to solidify the offensive line or secondary. Alex Leatherwood is the best player at either position available. His versatility would be hugely valuable. He has played every position other than center along the offensive line. Leatherwood has the length to play tackle, making him a potential long-term solution at left tackle as well.

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17. Chicago Bears (30-1) – Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Chicago is one of the toughest teams to mock in the NFL. In the middle of the order, quarterback would be a reach at this point. The team has plenty of talent on defense and an above offensive line as well. One area for concern centers around Allen Robinson. There has been tension between him and the front office regarding his contract situation already this year. Even if he is back, the Bears could use more playmaking on offense. Look no further than Jaylen Waddle. He is an explosive athlete with good size and incredible yards after the catch ability. He can also contribute on special teams. No matter who the quarterback is next year, he will benefit from playing with Waddle.

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18. Indianapolis Colts (25-1) – Jevon Holland, DB, Oregon
Julian Blackmon has been a revelation for the Colts defense this season. Malik Hooker is a pending free agent though and suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. Even if Hooker does come back, Jevon Holland is the best available option on the board for Indy. After trading for Sam Darnold (in this mock draft) to find a quarterback, Holland can step in and be a dynamic playmaker on the defense. He has played at both safety spots and nickle corner in time at Oregon. Indianapolis desperately needs that type of versatility and depth in the secondary.

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19. New England Patriots (25-1) – Carlos Basham, EDGE, Wake Forest
With the top offensive linemen off the board, New England can go after an edge rusher. Between opt outs, offseason departures and injuries, this once vaunted Patriots defense is much more middle of the road in 2020. With just six sacks through four games, they need an infusion of talent and speed off the edge. Carlos Basham can do just that. He has 17.5 career sacks, including three this season, and 33 tackles for loss. His size makes him a good fit for Bill Belichick’s defense as well, with the ability to put his hand in the ground or stand up on the outside.

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20. Dallas Cowboys (22-1) – Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse
Injuries have tanked the Cowboys this season, but most of those have been on the offensive side of the ball. Defensively, Dallas just stinks. Darian Thompson is not a starting-caliber safety. Xavier Woods has been solid, but could easily be replaced. Andre Cisco is a free safety by trade, which makes this fit a little tricky, but the Cowboys cannot afford to pass up on talent. Cisco is a ballhawk with 13 career interceptions. Considering Dallas has a league-worst -7 turnover margin, this is the type of playmaking they desperately need.

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21. Cleveland Browns (20-1) – Christian Barmore, DL, Alabama
Cleveland could arguably use linebacker help over a defensive tackle, but with none worth taking here, Christian Barmore is the pick. He is a well-rounded prospect with three-down ability. He can stuff the run or get after the quarterback. At 6’5″, 310 lbs, he could easily fit into the Browns 4-3 defensive front alongside Larry Ogunjobi. The team can save $12 million in cap space by cutting Sheldon Richardson next offseason. Too often, Myles Garrett is a one-man wrecking crew. Barmore will help shoulder the load up front.

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22. Tennessee Titans (20-1) – Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Maybe Corey Davis has a future in Tennessee, maybe he doesn’t. A.J. Brown seems pretty well entrenched as the No. 1 option when healthy and Davis might just be good enough to play behind him. With Davis’ deal up at the end of the year, the Titans could be in the market for another playmaker. Rondale Moore is about as reliable as they come. In his freshman season, he caught 114 passes for over 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also added an additional 213 yards rushing. He got off to a great start in 2019 before injuries derailed his season. While Tennessee would love a top-tier defensive back to fall to them, Moore is an excellent consolation prize.

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23. Las Vegas Raiders (18-1) – Jaylen Twyman, DL, Pittsburgh
One year after thinking they struck gold with their revitalized pass rush, the Raiders have managed just seven sacks in five games. With two young pass rushers on the edge, Las Vegas needs a disruptive force on the interior. Jaylen Twyman would be just that. He racked up 10.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in his 2019 campaign. At 6’2″, 290 he projects well as a three-technique tackle who would fit really well alongside Johnathan Hankins.

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24. Jacksonville Jaguars via Los Angeles Rams (15-1) – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
In the interest of seeing Gardner Minshew succeed, let’s get him a pass-catching tight end who can make plays in space. Jacksonville quietly has a pretty deep receiver room right now. At the same time, few teams can match their level of futility at tight end. James O’Shaughnessy and Tyler Eifert have combined for 23 catches for 208 yards and one touchdown through five games. Kyle Pitts has 17 catches for 274 yards and seven touchdowns in three games. He is a matchup nightmare at 6’6″, 240 lbs. Giving Minshew a reliable target on third down and in the red zone will definitely help his development.

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25. Buffalo Bills (12-1) – Pat Freiermuth, TE, Penn State
We have a run on tight ends! After none were selected in the first round last year, it is exciting to see two go back-to-back in this mock draft. Buffalo has gotten even less production out of Dawson Knox and Tyler Kroft. Josh Allen is proving that he is truly the franchise quarterback for the Bills and the team should give him as many weapons as they can. Pat Freiermuth has drawn some comparison to Rob Gronkowski. Now, that is high praise, but Buffalo would love to have a player like that on its offense. He is a threat in the red zone with the potential to develop into a top-tier player at the position.

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26. Pittsburgh Steelers (11-1) – Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
The Steelers could be heading into one of the most crucial offseason’s the franchise has faced in a long time. Without a clear heir to Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh could certainly kick the tires on Haskins and Darnold. However, Big Ben might have a few more years in him as well. With James Conner in a contract year, the Steelers could suddenly have an opening at running back. Najee Harris is a bruising back with above average hands out of the backfield. He is also a scoring machine, with 30 touchdowns in his past 16 games. Rather than pay an injury prone back like Conner, Pittsburgh can get an upgrade at the position on a rookie contract and look to target a quarterback prospect in the later rounds.

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27. New Orleans Saints (10-1) – DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
I truly believe the Saints feel they already have their long-term solution at quarterback in house. Whether it’s Jameis Winston returning on a bigger contract or turning things over to Taysom Hill, New Orleans has two options for when Drew Brees retires. What they don’t have is a long-term complement to Michael Thomas. DeVonta Smith is exactly the type of player Sean Payton has wanted in this offense for a long time. He thought he was going to get it with Tedd Ginn Jr. Smith is a speedy, big-play threat with a polished route tree and tons of agility. He comes out of an Alabama offense that has thrown it a lot over the past two seasons. He is a bit undersized, which makes me question if he will hold up in the NFL, but he would fit in perfectly alongside Thomas in this offense.

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28. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (17-2) – Jay Tufele, DL, USC
Ndamukong Suh is 33 and out of a contract at the end of the season. Tampa could hope it gets another great season out of him on another one-year deal, but it might be time to start thinking about a long-term replacement. Jay Tufele is not Suh, but he is built like him. He will need time to put it all together at the next level, but he has shown flashes at USC of devestating potential. He and Vita Vea could create a dominant tandem on the interior of the Buccaneers defensive line.

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29. Green Bay Packers (8-1) – Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
While the Packers might be proving us all wrong about needing to draft a receiver, it would be wise to eventually invest in the position. Davante Adams is signed through 2021 and the rest of the Packers receivers are not exactly proven commodities. Rashod Bateman plays a bit like Michael Thomas, and that is a very good thing. He is a big-body receiver who can work underneath or stretch the field. Bateman has plenty of big-play ability, averaging 20.3 yards per reception in 2019 for Minnesota. He would give Aaron Rodgers, and eventually Jordan Love, a consistent outside threat to work with.

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30. Baltimore Ravens (5-1) – Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
Matt Judon, Pernell McPhee, Tyus Bowser and Derek Wolfe are all free agents after the 2020 season. While Baltimore will likely invest in keeping some of them, it is incredibly unlikely all four players return for 2021. That opens up a need for an edge rusher in the draft. Joe Tryon is still a bit raw, but he has all the physical tools to develop into a great pass rusher. His play strength is evident on film. He has quick feet and uses his hands well. Learning in Don Martindale’s defense would be excellent for his development. He might not start right away, but the Ravens could definitely deploy him as a situational rusher.

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31. New York Jets via Seattle Seahawks (5-1) – Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia
Outside of quarterback, left tackle, strong safety and slot receiver, the Jets likely need an upgrade at the position. The secondary is a mess right now. New York’s unit is mostly just cast offs from other teams looking to fill in. The Jets are one of the most penalized teams in the NFL, largely due to poor secondary play. Tyson Campbell might help fast-track a rebuild of the unit. He has outstanding speed and quickness, not to mention excellent size for the position. Campbell still has a bit of fine-tuning to do when it comes to his technique and discipline, but he is a big reason why Georgia defense has been so dominant this year.

Chiefs Logo32. Kansas City Chiefs (7-2) – Trey Smith, OL, Tennessee
The reigning champs seem poised to defend their title. Brett Veach added a new running back to the mix and found some much-needed help for the secondary. While the Chiefs have some depth at the tackle spots, they could use some new talent on the interior of their offensive line. They have to protect Patrick Mahomes and his mega deal after all. Trey Smith has battled through blood clots in his lungs. When he is on the field, he is an All-American caliber guard. He was actually ESPN’s top-rated recruit back in 2017. He is a massive human being with plenty of potential if he can stay on the field.

NFL Draft Podcast – College Football opt outs and player demands

Chris is finally back recording the show! He breaks down the decisions of Caleb Farley, Rashod Bateman, Rondale Moore, Gregory Rousseau and Micah Parsons to opt out of the 2020 season. He also discusses the impact of the Pac-12’s player demands and how the Big Ten followed suit. Plus, catch up on the latest regarding the Power 5 conference schedules for the upcoming season. Listen to the latest episode now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts.
https://anchor.fm/theaftermath

2020 NFL Pro Potential Power Rankings

Welcome to Year 5 of the NFL Pro Potential Power Rankings! The more things change, the more things stay the same at the top. Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson and Florida are all still part of the top five. However, we are starting to see the on-the-field struggles for Florida State and Stanford catch up to them. Both have fallen outside the top 20 and could potentially drop out of the rankings altogether if things don’t get turned around.

I love doing these rankings every year because it shows you which schools are the best at preparing players for the NFL draft. Obviously, it should be taken into account that usually these schools are also the ones that excel in recruiting, but there is a lot more to it than that. Receiving the right exposure, playing in a specific system or especially competing against the best talent all play a role in shaping a prospects draft stock as well. This is not a predictive measurement of how well players from these schools will do in the pros. For high school prospects with dreams of playing on Sundays, these are the best programs to get you there.

Previous rankings: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016

The scoring system is as follows:
1st round-10 points
2nd round-7 points
3rd round-5 points
4th round-4 points
5th round- 3 points
6th round- 2 points
7th round- 1 points

Alabama Logo1. Alabama Crimson Tide- 315 points
Previous: 1 (281 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Quinnen Williams, 3rd Overall, 2019
This is just unbelievable. The Crimson Tide have led these rankings every single year I have made them. Their point total has reached a staggering 315, becoming the first school to eclipse the 300-mark. For the fourth straight year, Alabama had four players selected in the first round. That doesn’t include the countless players selected in the second round, third round and beyond. Ohio State closed the gap significantly, but ‘Bama is still the king.

Ohio State Logo2. Ohio State Buckeyes- 285 points
Previous: 2 (229 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Nick Bosa/Chase Young, 2nd Overall, 2019/2020
While Alabama is clearly the best football factory in the country, there is no question Ohio State belongs in the conversation. Ryan Day sent a huge batch of players to the NFL in 2020, including two players in the top three picks. And as if you haven’t heard already, Joe Burrow started his college career in Columbus as well. There is still a long ways to go to catch the Tide, but for the first time ever, it feels possible for the Buckeyes to take the top spot in the future.

Louisiana State University logo3. LSU Tigers- 202 points
Previous: 6 (132 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Joe Burrow, 1st Overall, 2020
This will go down as one of the greatest draft classes in NFL history. Five first-rounders and 14 players drafted in total, the latter of which was a record. Joe Burrow became just the second LSU player to go first overall in program history. I am a little skeptical that the Tigers will continue to dominate like this in the draft with so much turnover, but they became the only school other than Ohio State and Alabama to eclipse the 200-point threshold.

Clemson Logo4. Clemson Tigers- 171 points
Previous: 4 (158 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Clelin Ferrell, 4th Overall, 2019
Another team regularly producing NFL talent, it feels like Clemson is just ramping up for a special run in these rankings. The Tigers had two more first rounders this year from a draft class of seven players selected in total. Given the expectations surrounding the Tigers in 2020 and the continued pipeline of elite recruits, Clemson should be a regular in the top five and make a real run at climbing higher.

Florida logo.jpg5. Florida Gators- 161 points
Previous: 3 (166 points)
Highest Drafted Player- CJ Henderson, 9th overall, 2020
The on-field success is steadily building and the draft success is staying steady. Florida is consistently turning out players going in the first three rounds. With the Gators seemingly on the verge of breaking into college football elite, it would be a surprise to see them drop much further than this. If they could get a few more players going in the first round, they should solidify their spot in the top 5.

MichiganWolverines6. Michigan Wolverines- 144 points
Previous: 8 (127 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Devin Bush, 10th Overall, 2019
Jim Harbaugh might not be able to knock off Ohio State, but he is still ending boatloads of players to the NFL. For the second time in four years, Michigan saw its number of players drafted reach double digits. They have been a little streaky, with two years with just two players drafted in the past five drafts. While there are plenty of questions surrounding Harbaugh, he continues to prepare players for the next level.

Notre Dame Logo7. Notre Dame Fighting Irish- 136 points
Previous: 14 (110 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Ronnie Stanley, 6th Overall, 2016
Tied for the biggest riser in these rankings this season, it was a nice bounce back for the Fighting Irish. Even though they didn’t reach the College Football Playoff this season, Notre Dame still put together another really impressive draft class. With six players taken in the 2020 draft, including three in the first three rounds, the Irish continue to make waves. Brian Kelly continues to do a great job putting players in position to make the jump to the pros.

Oklahoma Logo8. Oklahoma Sooners- 133 points
Previous: 9 (125 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Baker Mayfield/Kyler Murray, 1st Overall, 2018/2019
With two more first-round picks, Oklahoma continues to rise up the rankings under Lincoln Riley. The Sooners seem to be on verge of becoming a football factory once again. However, after a three-year run of transfer quarterbacks either winning the Heisman or finishing as the runner up from OU, there is some uncertainty at the position. Now that won’t diminish any of the talent still existing elsewhere on this roster, but it could rob a number of players of the same big stage to showcase that talent.

Georgia Logo9. Georgia Bulldogs- 131 points
Previous: 10 (122 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Roquon Smith, 8th Overall, 2018
Another strong year for Georgia turned into another great draft class. What is impressive is that this class could have been even deeper if a few defensive stars had entered the draft and not returned to school. That sets up the Bulldogs well for continued success next year. I don’t expect them to leave the top 10 any time soon. Count on Kirby Smart to continue cultivating NFL talent.

Washington Huskies logo.jpg10. Washington Huskies- 110 points
Previous: 5 (140 points)
Highest Drafted Player- John Ross, 9th Overall, 2017
After years of dominating the draft, the Huskies took a massive hit. Dropping 30 points of value is pretty steep. Washington only had two players selected in 2020 this was definitely a down year. It doesn’t help either that Jacob Eason was the first Husky taken this year in the fourth round. With a very small 2016 draft class, Washington should not fall much next year, but could be in danger in the future.

USC logo11. USC Trojans- 104 points
Previous: 13 (114 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Sam Darnold, 3rd Overall, 2018
This is not your grandfather’s or even your father’s USC. The Trojans have fallen from college football’s elite, but still seem capable of sending some top-tier talent to the NFL. Having two players drafted in the first 33 selection is a really nice start, but Austin Jackson and Michael Pittman ended up being the only Trojans taken. More depth would be nice going forward considering USC dropped points, but still moved up.

Auburn_Tigers_logo12. Auburn Tigers- 101 points
Previous: 19 (82 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Derrick Brown, 7th Overall, 2020
Derrick Brown and Noah Igbinoghene were Auburn’s first first-round selections since 2014. This class had depth beyond those two as well, which led to a nice jump up this list. The Tigers have not been at the same level as they were at the beginning of last decade, but these are the type of years that make you believe Auburn still has it when it comes to producing NFL prospects.

Penn_State_text_logo13. Penn State Nittany Lions- 100 points
Previous: 17 (93 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Saquon Barkley, 2nd Overall, 2018
Saquon Barkley still stands alone as the only Penn State player selected in the first round since 2010. However, a pair of second rounders and a few late-round selections still created a solid class. James Franklin is still a step behind Ohio State and Michigan, both on the field and in these rankings. Given that the Nittany Lions have clawed their way into the top 15, I think its fair to say they are trending in the right direction when it comes to preparing players for the next level.

UCLA logo.jpg14. UCLA Bruins- 98 points
Previous: 15 (100 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Josh Rosen, 10th Overall, 2018
The on-field product has been rocky so far in the Chip Kelly era, but Oregon became a pipeline to the NFL under his tutelage. The Bruins have been a constant in these rankings, even in some of their leaner years. If Kelly can put his stamp on the program, I have a feeling that will continue and we could possibly see UCLA climb back up the ranks.

Ole_Miss_Rebels_logo15. Ole Miss Rebels- 93 points
Previous: 15 (100 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Laremy Tunsil, 13th Overall, 2016
Trouble is on the horizon. While Ole Miss didn’t slide, this team is trending in the wrong direction. Not a single player from the program heard his name called in the 2020 draft. The Rebels produced a monster class in 2016, featuring three first-round picks. With this being the last year that class will be included in these rankings, I think it is fair to expect a huge drop off in the 2021 rankings. However, Lane Kiffin is in charge now and could very well turn this around. While a dip is coming, Kiffin is the type of recruiter that could have Ole Miss surging back soon after.

1000px-mississippi_state_bulldogs_logo.svg_16. Mississippi State Bulldogs- 91 points
Previous: 18 (86 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Jeffery Simmons, 19th Overall, 2019
It might not be a star-studded group, but the 2020 draft class looks pretty solid for Mississippi State. On one side of things, the Bulldogs continue to send players to the NFL with consistency. However, there are a number of players who have slipped into the middle rounds of the draft that have had a lot of success. It begs questions about Mississippi State ability to elevate their player’s stock the same way other top programs have. It will be really interesting to see how this develops with Mike Leach taking over in Starkville.

Texas A&M logo17. Texas A&M Aggies- 90 points
Previous: 16 (95 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Myles Garrett, 1st Overall, 2017
Jimbo Fisher has yet to reach the same heights he hit at Florida State. He hasn’t quite hit the same level at producing NFL talent yet since taking over at Texas A&M either. However, we could see that change pretty soon. Fisher’s first full recruiting class will be draft eligible this year, which could see them start to climb in these rankings. They are a team to watch with interest over the next few seasons.

Utah_Utes_logo17. Utah Utes- 90 points
Previous: 20 (81 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Garrett Bolles, 20th Overall, 2017
For the third time in four years, Utah has filled the middle rounds of the NFL draft. 2018 was a bit of a dud, with only one player taken. Outside of that, the Utes have sent eight, five and now seven players respectively to league. Utah has been knocking on the door of the College Football Playoff. If they can break through, we could start to see a few of these players start to go in the big money rounds.

iowa_wordmark19. Iowa Hawkeyes – 86 points
Previous: 20 (81 points)
Highest Drafted Player- T.J. Hockenson, 8th Overall, 2019
When you think of old-school NFL factories, Iowa definitely comes to mind. While the Hawkeyes might not be the best, they certainly have a knack for sending at least a few players to the next level. Iowa has had at least three players taken in each of the past four drafts. Given that the team’s 2016 group consisted of just one seventh-round pick, there is plenty of potential for a rise in next year’s rankings with another good class.

Miami logo19. Miami Hurricanes- 86 points
Previous: 11 (117 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Artie Burns, 25th Overall, 2016
The U isn’t quite back yet. They are definitely getting close though. Miami had a respectable four players selected, but none went before the fourth round. With a few potential first-round prospects for 2021, the Hurricanes could be in line for a quick bounce back, but this has been a disappointing stretch for Miami’s NFL production.

Stanford Cardinal21. Stanford Cardinal- 85 points
Previous: 12 (116 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Solomon Thomas, 3rd Overall, 2017
When I started these rankings back in 2016, Stanford ranked seventh and was still riding the Andrew Luck years. While there have been a handful of top prospects to emerge since then, this has to be a disappointment to fall outside the top 20. The Cardinal had only two players selected in 2020, one in the fourth and one in the seventh. David Shaw has his work cut out for him to get Stanford back to national relevance and seeing more players take the next step in their football careers.

1000px-north_carolina_state_university_athletic_logo.svg_22. North Carolina State Wolfpack- 83 points
Previous: 22 (79 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Bradley Chubb, 5th Overall, 2018
It was a quiet year for the Wolfpack, but they are mostly surviving off a great 2018 draft class. They did have Garrett Bradbury go in the 2019 first round as well. Just two draft picks in 2020, one in the fifth and one in the seventh, isn’t too impressive though. It will be interesting to see which direction NC State is heading by next year.

Florida State Logo23. Florida State Seminoles- 80 points
Previous: 6 (132 points)
Highest Drafted Player- Jalen Ramsey, 5th Overall, 2016
Talk about the bottom falling out. Florida State started out at No. 2 in these rankings back in 2016. The program has been a mess in recent years and it was only a matter of time before these rankings began to reflect that. With just a single player selected in 2020, the fall might not be over for the Seminoles.

1280px-TCU_Horned_Frogs_logo24. TCU Horned Frogs- 79 points
Previous: Not ranked (55 points)
Highest Draft Player- Jalen Reagor, 21st Overall, 2020
For the first time in school history, TCU had two players selected in the first round as both Jalen Reagor and Jeff Gladney heard their names called. This is also the first time the Horned Frogs have entered these rankings. With five draft picks in 2020 and at least three players selected in four of the past five drafts, TCU has potential to stick around. Hopefully, Gary Patterson is up to the task.

Wisconsin logo25. Wisconsin Badgers- 73 points
Previous: 25 (74 points)
Highest Drafted Player- T.J. Watt, 30th Overall, 2017
The Badgers had a solid if unspectacular 2020 draft class. They failed to land a player in the first round, but they did have four players come off the board and all before the sixth round. Wisconsin debuted in these rankings at 15 back in 2016 so dropping to the edge is definitely disappointing. That being said, you can count on a few Badgers being selected in the middle rounds of the draft just about every year like clockwork.

Others Receiving Votes: West Virginia (63 points), Boston College (56 points), Temple (56 points)

Note: All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

 

Re-grading the 2015 NFL Draft

I redraft pretty much every NFL draft about 5 years after they happen. In fact, I did the 2015 class two weeks ago. To me, that gives a really good window to evaluate all of the players selected. It is amazing how differently you may view a player after two years as opposed to after five years. For example, Vic Beasley looked like the best pick in the entire draft, Marcus Mariota was on his way to stardom and David Johnson was one of the best running backs in football in 2017. Now, Beasley joined the Titans on a one-year, “prove it deal,” Mariota is a backup for Derek Carr and Johnson was traded to the Texans. None have managed to live up to the early hype they built. It works the other way too. After two years, no one knew who Danielle Hunter, Frank Clark or Za’Darius Smith were. Now they are three of the best pass rushers in football.

Each draft always has a blend of superstars, a few great players who bloomed late and some who peaked early. And of course there are always a few outright busts. Now that we can see how these players turned out at the next level, I figure why not grade them all over again? This time these grades will be a lot more complete and less of flat out a guess.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)Arizona Cardinals
Grade: C+
If this group could have stayed healthy, the Cardinals might look back on it more fondly. David Johnson was the gem of this class. He was one of the top backs in the NFL for a few years, but injuries derailed his career and he was part of the package sent to Houston for DeAndre Hopkins. D.J. Humphries is still around and has locked down a starting role. Arizona just extended him on a lucrative deal. He has only managed 43 games in five year NFL career, but when healthy, he is fairly reliable. Markus Golden broke out in his second season with 12.5 sacks, but then could only stay on the field for 15 games over the next two seasons. He reached double-digit sacks again in 2019, but that was as a member of the New York Giants. Rodney Gunter is still in town, providing some depth along the defensive line. The rest of the class is no longer with the team. Shaquille Riddick never played in an NFL game. J.J. Nelson had a few solid seasons, but joined the Raiders last year. Gerald Christian caught one pass in his NFL career. Overall, production wasn’t too bad, but with only two players still on the roster, this group could have been much better.

Falcons logoAtlanta Falcons
Grade: B-
If you ignore the Falcons first two picks, this looks like a really impressive draft class. Unfortunately, Vic Beasley’s career ended up being a roller coaster ride and Jalen Collins last only two seasons in the league. Beasley led the NFL in sacks his second season in the league, but never got anywhere close to that level again. Still, he has the third-most sacks in this class. Atlanta let him walk though and now he is in Tennessee. The Falcons did find some great value in the middle rounds of the draft though. Grady Jarrett has developed into one of the best interior defensive lineman in the NFL. He has the most sacks by any defensive tackle in this class. Tevin Coleman formed a really solid duo with Devonta Freeman before following Kyle Shanahan to San Francisco. Justin Hardy still provides some receiver depth, but hasn’t produced that much with under 1,000 yards through five seasons. Jake Rodgers saw his first NFL action in 2019 as an injury fill-in for the Broncos and Akeem King is a backup in Seattle. Coleman and Jarrett were great selections, but only Jarrett and Hardy are still on the roster from this class.

Ravens logoBaltimore Ravens
Grade: C
This class really did not do well for the Ravens. Za’Darius Smith is the most notable player from this draft class, but he turned in his best season as a pro for the Packers in 2019. Darren Waller is up there as well, but after a tenure that featured a lot of suspensions in Baltimore, he blossomed as a tight end in Oakland. Breshad Perriman signed with his fourth NFL franchise and accounted for all of 576 receiving yards for Baltimore. That’s not exactly what you are looking for from a first-round selection. Maxx Williams never turned into the tight end the Ravens expected and spent last season with the Cardinals. Carl Davis is a career backup bouncing around the league. Javorius “Buck Allen was a decent complementary back, but he is now with the Giants. Tray Walker lasted one NFL season. Nick Boyle is the only player still on the roster from this class and he mostly just serves as depth. Robert Myers has still never played an NFL game. Had the Ravens managed to get the most out of this class, this would be a much better grade.

Bills logoBuffalo Bills
Grade: D+
It is much harder to put together a great draft class without a first-round pick, but not impossible. The Bills didn’t come anywhere close though. Ronald Darby has become a decent, but injury-prone starter for the Eagles. John Miller has started 28 games over the past two seasons for the Bengals. Karlos Williams and Tony Steward flamed out after just one year. Dezmin Lewis lasted two. Nick O’Leary is still in the league, but is bouncing around as a backup. When none of the players you drafted are still on your team and only two of them have had productive careers, that’s a poor job done by the front office.

Panthers logoCarolina Panthers
Grade: C+
The Panthers can feel good that they landed Shaq Thompson in this group and found two other solid players in Daryl Williams and Devin Funchess. Thompson has been a mainstay for the Carolina defense. He isn’t dominant, but he is a productive starter. Williams took a year to get up to speed and has struggled with injuries, but still contributes. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move into more of a swing tackle backup though in the future. Funchess was reasonably successful when he could stay on the field, but the Panthers let him walk and he spent an injury-riddled season with the Colts in 2019. David Mayo ended up being a backup for four years before starting the majority of last year for the Giants. Cameron Artis-Payne put together a productive stretch before falling out of the league and landing with the XFL. This feels like a pretty average class for Carolina.

Bears logoChicago Bears
Grade: C-
This draft class will inevitably be remembered as a failure because of the team’s first round pick in Kevin White. While White was a bust, the rest of the draft was actually pretty solid. Adrian Amos turned out to be a steal in the fifth, but Chicago let him leave in free agency prior to 2019. Eddie Goldman has been productive as well. He is at least a replacement level starter along the defensive line. Hroniss Grasu is a backup in Baltimore now while Jeremy Langford and Tayo Fabuluje are both out of the league. The Bears should have held onto Amos, but his contributions prior to his departure and getting a decent player like Goldman saves this group from being a complete bust.

Bengals LogoCincinnati Bengals
Grade: D-
Absolutely brutal. That is the best way to describe this draft class. Cedric Ogbuehi lost his starting job after three years and now is on his third NFL team. Jake Fisher and Josh Shaw last played in 2018. Tyler Kroft only has 73 career receptions, which is slightly edged out by C.J. Uzomah’s 106. Neither one of those totals is great, but they are at least respectable. P.J. Dawson never made an NFL appearance. Neither did Marcus Hardison. Derron Smith lasted two seasons with the team, while Mario Alford managed one. They are both out of the NFL. When two backup tight ends is all you have to lean on, that is a bad year.

Browns logoCleveland Browns
Grade: D
Cleveland slightly edges out Cincinnati here, but no one deserves much credit here. Danny Shelton never really reached his potential, but he was at least a starter. He ended up in New England after a few seasons and just signed with the Lions. Cameron Erving was a disappoint, but he has managed 42 starts in his career. Only 17 were with the Browns though. He is actually a Super Bowl champion now. Duke Johnson was productive, but was traded to Houston last season. Nate Orchard never really caught on. Neither did Xavier Cooper or Vincent Mayle, who are both out of the league. Ibraheim Campbell is a decent backup, now with the Packers. No one else the Browns selected is still in the league. None of the 12 players Cleveland drafted is still with the team either, so I think we can say this was a terrible job by the front office.

Cowboys logoDallas Cowboys
Grade: C
The Cowboys hit on Byron Jones, but no one else in this group comes close to matching him. Randy Gregory recently filed for reinstatement to the league after an indefinite suspension last February for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. Geoff Swain turned out to be a decent backup tight end. Chaz Green made a handful of starts for Dallas, but has spent the past three seasons bouncing around the league. Damien Wilson had four solid seasons as a rotational linebacker with the Cowboys and just won a Super Bowl in the same role with the Chiefs. Ryan Russell hasn’t played since 2017 after a shoulder injury cost him the entire 2018 season with the Bucs. Mark Nzeocha is a backup on the 49ers. Laurence Gibson never appeared in a game. Overall, the class is solid, even if Jones did just sign with the Dolphins.

Denver_BroncosDenver Broncos
Grade: D-
It proved to be a tough weekend for the Broncos, whose best pick from this draft was easily the seventh rounder they spent on Trevor Siemian. The former Northwestern quarterback actually started for a year in Denver, but since has bounced around as a backup. First-round selection Shane Ray was a bust. He only last four seasons in the league. Ty Sambrailo started all of seven games for the Broncos before ending up with the Falcons. Jeff Heuerman carved out a role as a backup tight end. Max Garcia got a chance as the starting center, but lost his job in 2018. He signed with the Cardinals last year. Lorenzo Doss didn’t play in 2019. Neither did Darius Kilgo. Taurean Nixon appeared in two games in 2016, but that was all. Josh Furman, who never took an NFL snap, rounds out the class. Getting a backup tight end and a semi-decent backup quarterback from one draft is not good enough.

Lions LogoDetroit Lions
Grade: C-
Hit or miss is probably the best way to categorize Detroit’s 2015 draft. They had a diamond in the rough, finding Quandre Diggs in the seventh round. Diggs turned into a solid starter, mostly in a nickle corner or safety role. He now starts for the Seahawks. Laken Tomlinson never managed to lock down a starting role, but found success with the 49ers. He has started all but one game over the past three seasons in San Francisco. Ameer Abdullah showed flashes, but ultimately could not find consistency. He has mop up duty now for the Vikings. Alex Carter only played one game for the Lions and was out of the league after 2018. Michael Burton is still around, but he only lasted two seasons in Detroit before bouncing to Chicago. Corey Robinson never caught on and hasn’t played since 2018. Finding two solid starters in a class is pretty good. What hurts the Lions’ grade is that they both start for other teams.

Packers logoGreen Bay Packers
Grade: C-
Early on, this looked like a really good draft class. Damorious Randall was a starter and Ty Mongomery was a Swiss army knife type player on offense. Aaron Ripkowski looked like a solid fullback, earning 34 carries in 2016, which is a lot in today’s game. By 2018, all three of those players were gone. Randall was traded to Cleveland. Montgomery to Baltimore and Ripkowski was cut. Linebacker Jake Ryan also left after three years of being a rotational option. The reason all of these players seemed to leave at once was general manager Ted Thompson was fired after the 2017 season. Neither of the Packers’ sixth-round picks did much. Christian Ringo and Kennard Backman are both out of the league. There were some decent players here and maybe a few of them would still be with the team if Thompson hadn’t been fired, but when no one is left five years later, that isn’t a great look.

Texans logoHouston Texans
Grade: D+
The Texans essentially went 1 for 7 in this NFL draft. Ask a baseball fan, that’s not too good. Thankfully, the one hit they managed was a good one. Benardrick McKinney is an above average starter for the defense and still with the team today. First-round pick Kevin Johnson was underwhelming though, managing just one interception in 18 starts. He was let go after 2018. Jaelen Strong was out of football after 2017. Keith Mumphery only lasted until 2016. Reshard Cliett and Kenny Hilliard have never taken an NFL snap. Christian Covington has made it as a backup. The one player the Texans still have is a good one, but you hoped for something, really anything, out of their other six picks.

Colts logoIndianapolis Colts
Grade: D+
Only one player from this draft class is still with the Colts. Clayton Geathers has turned into a reliable backup. The reason this grade isn’t lower is that the Colts did find some other talent in this draft, they just didn’t hang on to it. Phillip Dorsett was disappointing given his draft stock, but to call him an outright bust would be harsh. He was involved in the trade that brought in Jacoby Brissett, for whatever that is worth. Henry Anderson is now a decent starter for the Jets. Denzelle Good is the only other player still in football from this group and he is a backup on the Raiders. Overall, the Colts didn’t get a whole lot of value out of this class, but something can be said for them at least trading away a few of these players for future late-round picks. Beats letting them walk in free agency.

Jaguars logoJacksonville Jaguars
Grade: C
Believe it or not, two of these players are still members of the Jaguars. That counts for something. The biggest name of this group is undoubtedly Dante Fowler Jr. He never quite lived up to his draft slot and the Jags traded him to the Rams after two and a half years. Netting a third round pick three years later is not great return on investment. A.J. Cann has worked out nicely though. He has missed just two starts in the past four seasons. Ben Koyack is the other player still with Jacksonville, provided depth at tight end. No one else from this group is still on an NFL roster. Finding two starting-caliber players and a reliable backup isn’t too bad, but it would be better if Fowler was still finding ways to contribute in Jacksonville.

Chiefs LogoKansas City Chiefs
Grade: C+
It is really hard to grade the Chiefs on this one. On one hand, they grabbed an All-Pro corner, a starting guard, a fringe starting corner, a quality third or fourth option receiver and a good No. 2 tight end. All but one of their draft picks was on an NFL roster in 2019. That is almost unheard of. The problem is that none of the play for Kansas City anymore. Marcus Peters trash talked his way to L.A. Mitch Morse has had concussion problem and now suits up for Buffalo. Steven Nelson started 15 games for Pittsburgh in 2019. Chris Conley racked 775 yards and five touchdowns for Jacksonville alongside James O’Shaughnessy, who showed flashes of solid play before getting hurt. D.J. Alexander and Ramik Wilson are both backups still in the league as well. Obviously, the Chiefs don’t really care about this as they are coming off a Super Bowl win, but had they managed to keep Peters in house or gotten better production out of Nelson, they might be back-to-back champions right now.

Raiders logoOakland Raiders
Grade: B+
Over the first few years after this draft, it looked like the Raiders had crushed it. Amari Cooper turned into a star receiver. Mario Edwards was a rotational pass rusher. Clive Walford was a solid tight end. Jon Feliciano provided depth at guard. Now none of these guys are part of the team’s move to Las Vegas. Cooper was traded to the Cowboys. Edwards never took the next step and is now on his third team in three years. Walford battled injuries after leaving the team and is now not on a roster. Feliciano left last offseason as a free agent and actually started all 16 games for the Bills. There was some talent here, but Oakland did not maximize it. Had they managed to keep things going, this might have been the first A of the class.

Chargers logoSan Diego Chargers
Grade: C+

With only five picks in this class, the Chargers have a much smaller margin for error. The messy breakup with Melvin Gordon definitely comes into play here. If he had stay in town for the price the Broncos just paid him, that would probably bump this a little higher. The rest of the class is pretty underwhelming. Denzel Perryman is a solid player, but the team seems to run out of patience with him. He has also only managed to appear in 54 out a possible 80 games in his career. Craig Mager earned some starts in his second year, but the Chargers let him walk after 2018. Same with Kyle Emanuel and Darius Philon. Having every player in the class last at least four years in the NFL is fairly impressive, but with three of them never signing a second contract, that indicates that maybe this group failed to meet expectations.

Rams logoSt. Louis Rams
Grade: A-
In their last year in St. Louis, the Rams pulled in a pretty good haul. Say what you will about Todd Gurley, he was the best non-quarterback in football for back-to-back seasons. The Rams just made a mistake with his contract. Rob Havenstein has started 68 games, all with the franchise, since he was draft. Jamon Brown spent one full season as a starter in 2017 before he was traded to the Giants midway through the 2018 season. Sean Mannion has become a journeyman backup. Andrew Donnal is still a backup in the league even though he lasted only two years with the Rams. Cody Wichmann even started most his first two seasons, but has been a backup ever since. Bryce Hager spent the past five years providing linebacker depth before Los Angeles let his contract expire. I think finding a superstar running back and a starting right tackle makes this a pretty good group. Getting reasonable contributions elsewhere makes this the first A I have handed out.

Dolphins logoMiami Dolphins
Grade: B-
This is a really tricky group to grade. DeVante Parker finally seems to have figured it out, but it took him five years to be productive. The Dolphins traded Jordan Phillips to the Bills after four underwhelming seasons. He posted 9.5 sacks in 2019 and landed himself a nice deal with the Cardinals. Jamil Douglas has made a handful of starts in his career, now suiting up for the Titans. Bobby McCain has turned into a solid defensive back playing most in sub packages. Jay Ajayi got off to a great start, but after a trade to the Eagles killed his momentum, he is now not on an NFL roster. Tony Lippett started out at Michigan State as a defensive back before the Spartans switched him to receiver for his final three seasons. The Dolphins moved him back to defensive back and he had four interceptions in 2016. That proved to just be a flash in the pan though. He has only played in three NFL games since then after tearing his Achilles before the 2017 season. Miami got a solid amount of production of this draft class, but it has been far too uneven to consider it a big success.

Vikings logoMinnesota Vikings
Grade: A+
No one had a better 2015 draft than the Vikings. They landed Eric Kendricks, Danielle Hunter and Stefon Diggs. Trae Waynes ended up being decent too even if he didn’t live up to his draft slot. Those first three formed a really solid core that has been essentially to the Vikings recent success. Kendricks was named 1st-team All-Pro in 2019. Hunter is a two-time Pro Bowler. Diggs has the most catches of any player in this draft and is one of the best route runners in the NFL. Obviously, Minnesota had a falling out with Diggs, which led to his trade to Buffalo. Netting a first round pick makes that a bit easier to swallow though and Diggs’ contributions over the past five years have been good enough that the grade should not change. The Vikings knocked this out of the park.

Patriots LogoNew England Patriots
Grade: B+
Like they do seemingly every year, the Patriots found a few gems late in this draft class. Trey Flowers produced 21 sacks over the course of his final three seasons with the team before landing a mega deal with the Lions. Shaq Mason is still around and has been a quality starting guard his whole career. Even Malcom Brown turned out to be a decent player, but he never quite reached the lofty expectations that come with being a first round pick. He is now with the Saints. Jordan Richards is a solid backup. Geneo Grissom never really caught on. Tre’ Jackson started nine games as a rookie, but then missed the whole 2016 seasons due to injury. The Pats cut him and he never landed anywhere else. This group was far from dominant. Only Mason and long snapper Joe Corona are still with the team. Still, New England found some excellent value in the later rounds and got enough production to win another Super Bowl in 2016.

Saints logoNew Orleans Saints
Grade: C
This wasn’t a great draft for the Saints, but they did get a few contributors out of it. Andrus Peat has been pretty reliable and just signed a long-term extension. P.J. Williams is out of a contract, but he has 23 games for New Orleans, including 15 over the past two seasons. Tyeler Davidson even had four solid years with the team, but left for the Falcons in free agency last offseason. On the flip side, the Saints got essentially nothing out of Stephone Anthony, but he did return last year after two seasons with the Dolphins. Hau’oli Kikaha was a bust. Garrett Grayson never developed either. It was an uneven return on investment for the Saints leaving them with an average grade.

Giants LogoNew York Giants
Grade: D
It was a rough draft for the Giants. They reached a bit to get Ereck Flowers, who never made it as a tackle. Weirdly enough, he did just sign a fairly large deal to play guard for the Dolphins. New York landed a really solid player in Landon Collins, but didn’t want to pay him, so they inexplicably lifted the franchise tag they used on him to let him walk to division rival Washington. The only thing that saves this from being an even lower grade is Bobby Hart. He was shaky in New York, but he has started every game of the past two seasons for the Bengals. He is far from a star, but finding an average offensive lineman in the seventh round is really good value. Overall, this class was a pretty big dud for the Giants, which probably had something to do with Jerry Reese being fired after 2017.

Jets logoNew York Jets
Grade: D+
The Jets earn a higher grade than the Giants! Barely. This was not a good draft for the Big Apple. New York landed what they thought was a superstar in the making in Leonard Williams, but he never reached those expectations. He actually got traded to the aforementioned Giants last season. Still, he was a solid player, just not worthy of a top-10 pick. The rest of the class was a joke. Devin Smith was a total bust, mostly because he couldn’t stay healthy. Lorenzo Maulden had a few seasons of decent pass-rush production. Bryce Petty was nothing more than a struggling backup quarterback. Deon Simon managed to feature for one season and Jarvis Harrison never made an NFL appearance. Williams did not net much return on the investment, but at least the Jets traded him for a third-round pick rather than let him leave for a team in the division for free.

Eagles LogoPhiladelphia Eagles
Grade: D+
Eagles fans have a history of being harsh, sometimes unfairly. Nelson “how is he back on the roster” Agholor never figured out how to catch the ball. Eric Rowe was traded to the Patriots after one season. Jordan Hicks spent four injury-riddled seasons in Philadelphia before having a breakout season with Arizona in 2019. No one else from this draft class played more than two seasons of football. Rowe and Hicks turned out to be solid players. Hicks might honestly be one of the best players from this class if he can stay healthy. Had they spent their best years with the Eagles, this grade could have been a lot higher. Agholor had his moments, but overall, this class was disappointing to say the least.

Pittsburgh_Steelers logoPittsburgh Steelers
Grade:
C
Pittsburgh found a good player early, and struggled after that. Bud Dupree has been as advertised as an edge rusher, even if he is not always one of the league’s elite. Jesse James was a decent find, operating mostly as a second-option tight end. Senquez Golden never played an NFL game as a second-round pick. Sammie Coates was gone by 2017. Doran Grant eventually ended up in the XFL. Anthony Chickillo was solid as a sixth-round pick. He spent five seasons as a backup and special teams contributor before getting cut this offseason. Dupree makes this group passable, but clear misses in the second and third round tank this draft grade.

49ers LogoSan Francisco 49ers
Grade: B+
This is actually a really impressive collection for the 49ers. Arik Armstead finally broke out in his fifth season. He had been solid previously, but he played at a Pro Bowl level in 2019. Jaquiski Tartt has, when healthy, has been the preferred starter at safety. Eli Harold was a decent rotational player for three years. Blake Bell has bounced around, but is still finding ways to stay on the field. Mike Davis had a good 2018 season with Seattle, but that was his only notable year. Bradley Pinion was the punter for four seasons before spending last year with Tampa Bay. The 49ers unearthed a gem as well in Trent Brown, but never got to see him realize his potential. He started all 16 games for San Francisco in 2016, but got injured in 2017, resulting in a trade to New England. He had an incredible year there and leveraged into a monster deal with the Raiders. This ended up being a quality draft for the 49ers, but it doesn’t quite reach the A level. Armstead took a while to catch on while Brown had his best seasons with other teams. Still, this is impressive haul.

Seahawks logoSeattle Seahawks
Grade: A
Seattle didn’t have a first-round pick in 2015, which makes this class even more impressive. They landed Frank Clark in the second and Tyler Lockett in the third. Clark is one of the best pass rushers from this draft and currently in the league. While he is no longer with the team, Seattle got a first, second and third-round pick swap for him. Quite the return on investment. Lockett is coming off his best season in the pros and has blossomed into Russell Wilson’s favorite weapon. The Seahawks added Mark Glowinski, who is now a starter for the Colts, in the fourth round as well. That’s three really solid players. If Lockett wasn’t the only player still with the team, this would be an A+, but when you consider the impact this group has had in the league and how much value it has generated for the Seahawks, the front office deserves a pat on the back.

Buccaneers logoTampa Bay Buccaneers
Grade: B
So Jameis Winston was probably the wrong choice at first overall. He wasn’t a total bust either though. Tampa just could never seem to get him to take the next step. The rest of this draft was pretty impressive though. Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet are both starting offensive linemen for the Buccaneers. Both have been pretty reliable. Smith has started 79 out of 80 potential games and Marpet 72 of 80. Kwon Alexander struggled to stay healthy, but still turned out to be a really good linebacker. He started eight games for the 49ers this season before suffering another injury. Getting three quality starters and a slightly inconsistent starting quarterback is a nice group. If Winston had worked out, this would have been an easy A.

Titans logoTennessee Titans
Grade: F
It is hard to do much worse than the Titans did in the draft. Marcus Mariota was not the franchise quarterback they hoped for. He lost his job in 2019 and is now a backup to Derek Carr on the Raiders. Dorial Green-Beckham was a huge disappointment. Angelo Blackman is the only player other than Mariota still active, but he plays for the the divisional rival Texans now. Jeremiah Poutasi, Jalston Fowler, David Cobb, Deiontrez Mount, Andy Gallik and Tre McBride are all out of the league. Most of them didn’t make it past 2016. It is honestly hard to do much worse than that. This whole draft class was a bust.

Washington made up logoWashington
Grade: B+
This might not have been perfect, but on the whole this ended up being a pretty good group. Brandon Scherff is a quality starter set to play this season on the franchise tag. Preston Smith has the fourth-most sacks in this class, but his best season yet came with the Packers after he left in free agency. Jameison Crowder has become a solid slot receiver, but he also left last offseason. Washington also landed a reliable center in the seventh round, but gave up on him after a year. After two years in Cleveland, he joined Kansas City. He started all 16 games for the Super Bowl champs this past season. Finding four starting-caliber players is impressive. Only holding onto one of them is what prevents this from being a better grade.

Biggest reaches of the 2020 NFL Draft: Four first-round pick make the list

Our draft week coverage continues, but now it is time to dish out some hate for some of the teams that got a little over aggressive in their draft strategy. After reviewing the best value picks of this draft, I figured the next step would be to look at the biggest reaches. There are a number of teams that showed up on both lists. Now I understand that my rankings are specific to me. I am using them primarily as a reference point for where I had them. I tried to focus more on other players that were still available and the level of need the team had at that position. These are the players that I thought came off the board too early in the 2020 draft.

Falcons logo

A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson – Atlanta Falcons
Draft position: 16th overall (1st round)
My ranking: 63rd overall (2nd-round grade)
Atlanta desperately needed corner help, but they got a little too desperate here. There were reports the Falcons wanted to move up the 2nd pick to grab Chase Young or into the top 10 to draft CJ Henderson. Once they couldn’t trade up, it felt like they settled for A.J. Terrell. There were definitely better corners available, but Atlanta should have tried to trade back or taken the best player available and address corner in round two. K’Lavon Chaisson was still available at a major position of need for this team. Keep in mind the following corners were still on the board for the Falcons second-round pick: Jaylon Johnson, Trevon Diggs and Krisitan Fulton. I had them all ranked higher than Terrell to begin with and in the second round, they were much more valuable additions.

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Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State – Las Vegas Raiders
Draft position: 19th overall (1st round)
My ranking: 72nd overall (3rd-round grade)
Welcome to the reach of the first round and maybe the entire draft. Damon Arnette seems to have the makings of a solid second option in the secondary. He has some physical limitations though and was the third-best corner on Ohio State this year. There is no question the Raiders need help at the position, but this was way too early for Arnette to come off the board. All those same corners I just mentioned above for Terrell were available and I had higher draft grades on all of them as well. Arnette was 11th ranked corner, but he was the fourth one off the board. The Raiders definitely should have traded back. It is easier said than done, but without a second round pick, this felt like the perfect opportunity to do so.

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Jordyn Brooks, LB, Texas Tech – Seattle Seahawks
Draft position: 27th overall (1st overall)
My rankings: 74th overall (3rd-round grade)
This was surprising at face value, but when you factor in how the Seahawks tend to draft, this is par for the course. Spoiler alert: Seattle shows up on here twice, which probably means this list is going to look really silly in about three years. Few franchises have as much success identifying and developing talent as the Seahawks. However, for every Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman or Bobby Wagner this team seems to find, it hard to ignore mistakes like Rashaad Penny, Malik McDowell and potentially L.J. Collier if he doesn’t take a big step in his second year. I liked Brooks as a prospect, but I didn’t think he was good enough to go in the first round. He is rangy and explosive, but definitely pretty raw. He has very limited experience in coverage. Most of his snaps on passing downs are spent spying on the quarterback. If he can become more comfortable dropping back, he will justify this draft slot, but that is a really big if.

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Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia – Tennessee Titans
Draft position: 29th overall (1st round)
My ranking: 96th overall (3rd-round grade)
I actually really like this fit a lot, I just thought it was very early to see Isaiah Wilson come off the board. He has tons of potential given his size, but I think he would have really benefited from another year at Georgia. He just isn’t very technically sound yet as a prospect. He will likely be in contention to start at right tackle with the departure of Jack Conklin. Wilson will grow into the role eventually, I just think he has a decent amount of work to do. Given the coronavirus-impacted offseason, that could be a problem. If Tennessee is comfortable letting him learn on the job, that’s fine, but it could hurt them in the short term.

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Robert Hunt, OL, Louisiana – Miami Dolphins
Draft position: 39th overall (2nd round)
My ranking: 79th overall (3rd-round grade)
This was not as significant of an overdraft as some of these others on this list, but still a surprise nonetheless. Robert Hunt is a really powerful blocker who can knock opponents back in the run game and punish them if they misstep as a pass rusher. However, he is not exactly pro ready and has lapses in his footwork and hand placement. I would consider him to be something of a project with decent upside as an interior lineman. My bigger issue with the selection was the list of interior linemen still on the board. I had Matt Hennessy, Tyler Biadasz, Lloyd Cushenberry and John Simpson all ranked ahead of Hunt. Simpson in particular feels like a more polished prospect that brings a lot of the same attributes to the table. Perhaps Miami liked how Hunt could fit in their scheme, but I still think there were some better options available.

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A.J. Dillon, RB, Boston College – Green Bay Packers
Draft position: 62nd overall (2nd round)
My ranking: 149th overall (5th-round grade)
I really did not see this pick coming. People have been slamming the Packers for not taking a receiver in this draft (I have been one of them), and this selection in particular made that even harder to swallow. When you already have Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams on your roster, finding a goal line back shouldn’t be super high on the priority list. Had the Packers made this selection in the fourth round, I would be all in favor, but this was simply too early for a player that had almost 850 career collegiate carries. At best, A.J. Dillon is a short-yardage specialist for this team. He has taken small steps as a receiver, but not to the point where you expect him to be a factor in the passing game. Even if you want to argue that Green Bay has enough developing options at receiver, this should have been a linebacker to help bolster the team’s poor run defense.

Washington made up logo

Antonio Gibson, RB/WR, Memphis – Washington
Draft position: 66th overall (3rd round)
My ranking: 161st overall (5th-round grade)
In terms of difference between draft slot and overall ranking, this was my biggest reach of the draft. Antonio Gibson certainly brings a unique skill set to the table. However, this feels like the type of selection a team looking to add a unique playmaker to an already established offense makes. Washington’s offense is anything but established. He could be an impact player in the next few years, but I think this team had much bigger holes to fill and honestly much better playmakers available. If you wanted that do-it-all weapon to install in your offense, Lynn Bowden Jr. was still on the board.

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Damien Lewis, OL, LSU – Seattle Seahawks
Draft position: 69th overall (3rd round)
My ranking: 136th overall (4th-round grade)
Another new Seahawk makes the list. I appreciate the effort the front office made here to protect Russell Wilson, but this was a miss. Damien Lewis should help the Seattle run game as they continue to pound the rock, but he is limited in space and has some very uneven film as a pass blocker. Go watch how often Joe Burrow was running for his life in the College Football Playoff. I don’t think Lewis has a tremendously high ceiling to chase either. This feels like Seattle trying to force a need. On top of all of that, I had Ben Bredeson, Jonah Jackson, Logan Stenberg, and Solomon Kindley all ranked ahead of Lewis. That doesn’t even include Matt Hennessy, Lloyd Cushenberry or Tyler Biadasz, all of whom played center in college. Quick reminder, the Seahawks just released long-time center Justin Britt.

Jets logoJabari Zuniga, EDGE, Florida – New York Jets
Draft position: 79th overall (3rd round)
My ranking: 153rd overall (5th-round grade)
I’ve hated on some other teams’ draft picks. Now I get to question my favorite team for one of its selections. Jabari Zuniga has the potential to be a solid pass rusher, provided he can stay on the field. He works hard to generate pressure and displays good play strength. Unfortunately, he is not the most athletic player of all time, which I think caps his upside. He also missed a good chunk of his final season at Florida due to an ankle injury. With Curtis Weaver, Bradlee Anae, Kenny Willekes, Terrell Lewis, Jonathan Greenard, Alex Highsmith, Khalid Kareem, Alton Robinson and Nick Coe all still on the board, I just don’t love this pick at this spot. Maybe it is recency bias (or anti-recency bias, if that’s a thing) after watching former Gators pass rusher Jachai Polite fail to make it out of training camp, but I think Zuniga is going to max out as a situational pass rusher.