Best value picks from the 2020 NFL draft

The 2020 NFL draft is officially in the rear view mirror. It is hard to believe that the first round was already a week ago. That is partially because I almost never what day of the week it is now since social distancing measures have gone into place. While the first rounders gets the majority of the headlines, there were a lot of teams that found incredible value in the later rounds of the draft. Here are my favorite players that last way longer than they should have.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)Josh Jones, OT, Houston – Arizona Cardinals
Draft position: No. 72 (3rd round)
My ranking: No. 21 (1st-round grade)
I don’t think I am the only one who was shocked Josh Jones slid all the way to the third round. I wrote about it as one of the biggest surprises of the first round, and then as one of the biggest surprises of Day 2. He is powerful and athletic. There are certainly areas for improvement when it comes to his base strength. He uses his hands well though, seeks out contact and finishes blocks at the second level. I think he has a real chance to start this season for Arizona.

Saints logoZack Baun, LB, Wisconsin – New Orleans Saints
Draft position: No. 74 (3rd round)
My ranking: No. 29 (1st round grade)
The reason Zack Baun dropped into the third round primarily has to do with his lack of experience as an off-ball linebacker. He showed he could transition to that role at the Senior Bowl. I really like his versatility. He is very comfortable rushing the passer, something he did with regularity at Wisconsin, and is a solid open-field tackler. I think he is also a great fit for this Saints defense. I think he should be in line for a lot of playing time.

Cowboys logoTyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin – Dallas Cowboys
Draft position: No. 146 (4th round)
My ranking: No. 52 (2nd-round grade)
I know I was a bit higher than the consensus on Tyler Biadasz, but there is no way he should have fallen to the end of the fourth round. Biadasz dealt with some injuries in 2019, but he is rock solid in pass protection and works very well as a head-on run blocker. He might struggle if asked to pull and block in space, but overall, I think he also has room for growth from a technical standpoint. He will be in consideration for the starting center role following Travis Frederick’s retirement.

Jets logoBryce Hall, CB, Virginia – New York Jets
Draft position: No. 158 (5th round)
My ranking: No. 24 (1st-round grade)
As a Jets fan, I was thrilled with this pick. Bryce Hall has the size and technique to excel in the NFL. He does not have elite speed, but he knows how to press his opponent to the sideline and tracks the ball very well in the air. Apparently, teams are still worried about the ankle injury that cut his 2019 season short. Once he is healthy, I think we will see him return to his 2018 form, where he led the country in pass breakups. He will likely top out as a serviceable No. 1 corner or a great No. 2 option.

Dolphins logoCurtis Weaver, EDGE, Boise State – Miami Dolphins
Draft position: No. 164 (5th round)
My ranking: No. 55 (2nd-round grade)
There are few players in this year’s draft who had the level of production in college that Curtis Weaver had. He had 34 sacks and 43.5 tackles for loss during his three years at Boise State. He has the size to be a rotational pass rusher right away either as a 4-3 defense end or a 3-4 outside linebacker. I think he will fit really well with Miami, who needs a young edge rusher to develop. He does not have the explosive first step that makes you think he will turn into a game-wrecker, but his pass-rush moves and technique could see him develop into an eight-to-ten sack per year guy.

Cowboys logoBradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah – Dallas Cowboys
Draft position: No. 179 (5th round)
My ranking: No. 59 (2nd-round grade)
I still can’t wrap my head around this one. Bradlee Anae dominated the Senior Bowl and is at the very least a pro-ready rotational pass rusher. He does not have the desired bend some teams are looking for in edge players, but he brings plenty of experience and some very polished pass rush moves. For a team that really needed to find some help getting pressure on the quarterback, this is an absolute steal in the fifth round.

Browns logoDonovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan – Cleveland Browns
Draft position: No. 187 (6th round)
My ranking: No. 65 (2nd-round grade)
Donovan Peoples-Jones is definitely a project, but coming from a big program with poor quarterback play, I will be curious to see how he translates. He has all the physical traits you look for. He has long arms and tore up the combine when it came to testing. He ran a 4.48 40, which is really solid given his size (6’2″, 212 pounds). Peoples-Jones posted a combine-bests in the vertical jump (44.5 inches) and broad jump (139 inches). I get that combine stars don’t always translate and there are questions about his agility. However, I think spending a sixth-round pick on a player with that much athleticism is definitely worth it.

Eagles LogoPrince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn – Philadelphia Eagles
Draft position: No. 210 (6th round)
My ranking: No. 66 (2nd-round grade)
A medical red flag on his knee caused Prince Tega Wanogho to plummet. I can understand teams being wary to spend a high draft pick on a player with an injury history. That being said, I think by the 210th pick in the draft, finding a player who, when healthy, is probably worth spending an early third-round selection on is worth the risk. If Tega Wanogho can get on the field, he is a developmental tackle that moves well and has a lot of experience at left tackle in the SEC. In the short term, he can provide some depth for a team that saw veteran stalwart Jason Peters end his 11-season tenure with the franchise.

Chargers logoK.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State – Los Angeles Chargers
Draft position: No. 220 (7th round)
My ranking: No. 93 (3rd-round grade)
There were several players that should have gone in the third round that fell into the seventh. However, K.J. Hill is the most understandable of the group to drop. He did not test well at the combine and this was an incredibly deep receiver class. However, if you go back and watch his film at Ohio State and the Senior Bowl, you will see a crafty slot receiver with more than enough speed to make it at the next level. He definitely has his physical limitations, but I could see Hill developing into a Danny Amendola-type receiver in the right offense. I think the Chargers would be thrilled to get that out of a seventh-round pick.

Arizona_Cardnals_logo_(1994-2004)Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State – Arizona Cardinals
Draft position: No. 222 (7th round)
My ranking: No. 91 (3rd-round grade)
I was a bit more surprised to Eno Benjamin slide this far. He did have a lot of touches in college, and his sophomore season was more impressive than his junior one, but the talent is still there. He caught 77 passes over the past two years, so he is definitely comfortable as a receiver. Benjamin has the makings of a great rotational back. Someone you can rely on to touch the ball 10-15 times a game and be productive with those touches. I think he will be a great fit in Arizona.

Vikings logoKenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State – Minnesota Vikings
Draft position: No. 225 (7th round)
My ranking: No. 87 (3rd-round grade)
How does a redshirt junior return to school and put up the same number of tackles and register more sacks and drop in the NFL draft? Beats me. Perhaps teams were not as high on Willekes because of his age. There also seems to be a misconception that he is not very athletic. Watch this video and tell me you still think that. I don’t expect Willekes to set the world on fire in the NFL, but he deserved to be drafted much higher than this. Minnesota found themselves someone who will likely compete for Everson Griffin’s spot at defensive end as a rookie.

Bills logoDane Jackson, CB, Pittsburgh – Buffalo Bills
Draft position: No. 239 (7th round)
My ranking: No. 148 (4th-round grade)
He was definitely a bit of a sleeper, but Dane Jackson was one of my favorite late-round grabs. He was the last player I gave a fourth-round grade to, so I wouldn’t have been surprised to see him slip into the fifth or even sixth round. The Bills getting him in the seventh makes this great value. Jackson looked really solid at the Senior Bowl. I was impressed with how he competed against the top receivers in this class. He was a three-year starter at Pittsburgh. He tackles well and is aggressive in closing to break up passes. I think he has a good shot to carve out a role on this Buffalo defense.

Check back in Friday for the biggest reaches of the 2020 draft.

2020 NFL Draft: Day 2 surprises and best players available

We are two days in, but still not even halfway through the NFL draft. This class is loaded with talented players that found their NFL homes on Friday. While the first round gets the biggest billing, this is where teams make their money. If you can find value in the middle rounds of the draft, you are going to be a very successful franchise. The teams that do this best (Seattle, New England, Baltimore) seem to always have players ready to step in when injuries strike or players leave in free agency. That’s because they find the diamonds in the rough.

I will talk about my favorite prospects still on the board, but first, let’s talk about some of the most shocking developments from rounds two and three. Check out day one’s biggest surprises here.

NCAA Football: Oklahoma vs UCLA, Sept 14, 2019, Pasadena, CA
Hurts was the runner-up for the Heisman in 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

Eagles take Jalen Hurts
Wait … what??? Philadelphia signed Carson Wentz to a mega-extension worth north of $100 million prior to the 2019 season. So logically, at pick 53, the Eagles selected Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts. Sure, the team could use a reliable passer to backup Wentz, who has a history of injuries. However, drafting a quarterback in the second round feels like a very odd decision given the cirumstances. Philly needs help at corner, linebacker and wide receiver, even after taking Jalen Reagor in round one. Howie Roseman has often been one of the general managers capable of finding talent in the later rounds, but his draft plan in 2020 is a mysterious to most outsiders. On back-to-back days, the Eagles made headlines for who they decided to draft, but not for ideal reasons.

Josh Jones slides … again
Well I definitely overestimated how much the NFL would like Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones. I had him going 18th overall to the Dolphins. Instead, he stayed on the board all the way until pick 72 for the Cardinals (who have had a great draft so far if you ask me). He is definitely a little raw, but he is a solid offensive tackle and there are tons of teams who were rumored to be interested in help at the position. He was my fourth-ranked player at the position, but was the eighth selected. This is just one fan’s opinion, but I was shocked to see Jones fall so far. Maybe that’s less of a reflection on him as well. After six offensive tackles went in the first round, only Ezra Cleveland went in round two and Jones was the first one off the board in the third.

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Swift went 35th overall to the Lions on Friday night. (Wikimedia Commons)

Teams reaching on running back
After Clyde Edwards-Helaire went with the last pick of the first round, there was some buzz that we could see a run on running backs. Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift and J.K. Dobbins all went as expected in round two, along with Cam Akers. What was surprising was to see A.J. Dillon and Antonio Gibson come off the board soon after. I like Dillon a lot, but I thought the Packers, once again, had bigger needs at receiver and linebacker. Dillon was still a bit of a ways down my board as well. Gibson was a stunner. I didn’t have him in my top 150 prospects and as my 12th running back overall. I wasn’t alone in the skepticism on Gibson either, Bleacher Report had him 164th overall, 98 spots later than he was selected by Washington. Green Bay’s decision is a bit more forgivable. Washington’s follow up to Chase Young was definitely a bit underwhelming.

Broncos double up on receivers
I applaud Denver for waiting and landing the best receiver in this draft. Getting Drew Lock a receiver to pair with Courtland Sutton made a ton of sense. I think Jerry Jeudy will have a great career in Denver. The surprise here was that then the Broncos dipped back into the position group to take Penn State’s KJ Hamler. Hamler is a speedster out of the slot with tons of big-play ability. I am not a huge fan of him as a prospect given his size and issues with drops. I was surprised to see the Broncos passing on either a corner or offensive lineman (although they did fill both positions later.) I didn’t think Denver really needed another receiver with Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton already in the fold prior to the draft, but they clearly want depth at the position.

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Prior to 2019, the Jets were the only team with which Bill Belichick had never traded. (Wikimedia Commons)

Jets and Patriots make a trade
This definitely caught me by surprise. Very rarely do these franchise negotiate trades, but maybe it really is the sign of a new era in New England. The Jets and Pats actually brokered a trade early in the 2019 season that sent Demaryius Thomas to New York in exchange for a 2021 6th round pick. This latest trade between the two teams that saw the Patriots acquire the 101st pick, which they spent on Virginia Tech tight end Dalton Keene. As part of the deal, the Jets landed two fourth rounders this year and New England’s 2021 sixth-round pick. Believe it or not, the two teams have now just swapped 2021 sixth rounders. If you are still reading at this point, know that I appreciate your love for football and quirky draft nuggets.

Through three rounds, there is a lot of talent still on the board. I actually see a ton of prospects in my top 100 available, 21 to be exact. Considering there have already been 106 selections, I am really positive about the players still on the board. Some quality defensive options, a bunch of lanky receivers and a pair of former Georgia quarterbacks highlight the group. Here are my favorite remaining prospects:

24. Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
52. Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
55. Curtis Weaver, EDGE, Boise State
56. John Simpson, G, Clemson
59. Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah
62. Ben Bartch, OT, St. John (Minn.)
65. Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan
66. Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn
67. Troy Pride Jr., CB, Notre Dame
73. Amik Robertson, CB, Louisiana Tech
80. Troy Dye, LB, Oregon
81. Leki Fotu, DL, Utah
84. Larrell Murchison, DL, NC State
86. Jacob Eason, QB, Washington
87. Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State
88. K’Von Wallace, S, Clemson
89. Thaddeus Moss, TE, LSU
91. Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State
92. Ben Bredeson, G, Michigan
93. K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State
100. Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia
101. Brycen Hopkins, TE, Purdue
102. Collin Johnson, WR, Texas
104. Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota
105. James Lynch, DL, Baylor
106. Logan Stenberg, G, Kentucky
109. Solomon Kindley, G, Georgia
110. Trevon Hill, EDGE, Miami
113. Evan Weaver, LB, California
114. Gabriel Davis, WR, UCF
116. Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State
117. Jason Strowbridge, DL, UNC
123. Quintez Cephus, WR, Wisconsin
124. A.J. Green, CB, Oklahoma State
125. Francis Bernard, LB, Utah

2020 NFL Draft: First-Round Surprises and Best Players Available

That was exactly what everyone in the sports world needed. A nice dose of excitement, chaos and entertainment. Cincinnati, Washington and Detroit kicked the draft off with some predictable picks. After that, nothing was guaranteed. Trades started coming fast and furious in the 20s. Miami and Los Angeles stayed put and took franchise quarterbacks. Tons of wide receivers and corners came off the board, maybe not in the order most expected.

I think it is way too early to start handing out grades for the first round. We can do that a few years from now. (I should really go back and regrade the 2015 draft class.) Instead, let’s discuss the biggest surprises of the first round. There are plenty to discuss, but I think the first one is pretty obvious.

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Rodgers turned 36 in December. (Wikimedia Commons)

Packers trade up for Aaron Rodgers’ successor
Of all the teams to take a chance on Utah State quarterback Jordan Love, I did not have Green Bay anywhere in the conversation. Thinking about it though, this is exactly what the franchise did with Brett Favre towards the end of his career. They saw a talented quarterback sliding and pounced to find their next franchise passer. What makes this so shocking is that Aaron Rodgers has shown no signs of slowing down. This offense is in desperate need of more playmakers. In a draft stocked with them, it felt like a great chance for the Packers to find Rodgers more weapons. Instead, they found the man who will potentially replace him. After being just a game away from the Super Bowl last year, this feels like an odd move. Credit the Green Bay for being forward thinking, but I definitely did not expect this.

Josh Jones’ slide
I had Houston offensive tackle Josh Jones pegged to go at 18 to the Dolphins. He was my 21st overall prospect and my highest remaining offensive lineman. Miami decided to take USC product Austin Jackson. When the Chargers traded back into the first round, I assumed it was for Jones. They opted for Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray. Tennessee had a chance to take Jones as well, but chose a different tackle in Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson. I was just about convinced the Jones would find a home in the first round. He is a bit older at 23, but he is a physical player with solid technique. It would not be a shock to see the Bengals take Jones at 33, but it is unclear when his slide might end at this point.

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Okudah was the highest drafted corner since 1997. (Wikimedia Commons)

Corner craze in round one
I did not think we were going to see six cornerbacks go in the first round. A.J. Terrell at 16 to the Falcons felt like a bit of a reach to me, but I had seen some first-round buzz around him. Damon Arnette to the Raiders 19th overall was truly a stunner. Then, Noah Igbinoghene went to Miami at pick 30. Teams felt like they were reaching a bit at the position, especially given some of the other players available. K’Lavon Chaisson felt like a great fit for Atlanta. Las Vegas passed on a lot of talented corners to take Arnette, who I had 11th at the position. Miami has spent tons of money locking up Xavien Howard and Byron Jones. Igbinoghene is definitely a luxury pick for the Dolphins, who have a ton of draft picks. Pass rusher felt like a bigger need though with some solid players available. I thought there was depth at the position in this draft, but the league went all in much early than expected. Three felt like a safe number to peg with Jeff Okudah, CJ Henderson and Jeff Gladney in the mix. I didn’t expect that number to double. I think there are some really good options still available too with Bryce Hall, Kristian Fulton and Jaylon Johnson still on the board, so this trend might continue.

Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson
I think TCU receiver Jalen Reagor will end up having a solid NFL career, but I think the Eagles missed big time on LSU’s Justin Jefferson, who went a pick later to the Vikings. Reagor plays a bit like former Philadelphia standout DeSean Jackson. He had an uneven 2019 season, but his game speed is impressive. Reagor is definitely a bit undersized, but he posted an outrageous 42-inch vertical at the combine. However, Jefferson is coming off a monster year and is a much better prospect in my opinion. He is really just a bigger, more physical version of Reagor. Jefferson ran a better 40 time, posted better stats and played against much better competition. I think Jefferson would have fit Philly’s system as well. This one left me scratching my head.

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Edwards-Helaire had over 1,800 total yards and 17 TD in 2019. (Wikimedia Commons)

Clyde Edwards-Helaire as RB1
Between D’Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins and Jonathan Taylor, I thought Clyde Edwards-Helaire would be at least the second back drafted. I had him as my third running back behind Dobbins and Swift. CEH is a physical runner with the ability to be a receiver out of the backfield as well, even if he doesn’t have blazing speed. He reminds me a lot of Maurice Jones-Drew and feels like a good fit for the Kansas City offense, but I don’t think many people expected him to be the first running back off the board. There is also something to be said for Andy Reid drafting a running back for the first time in his 21-year career as a head coach. Very happy for him after he turned in a great season, but I definitely did not see this coming.

Not really enough to warrant it’s own subhead, but I was very confused by Seattle’s pick of Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks. He is a solid player, but I thought he would go middle of day two and that was definitely not the biggest need for this Seahawks defense.

Best Players Available

Those were the biggest talking points of the night for me. As teams turn their attention to rounds two and three tomorrow, here are my top remaining prospects:

18. Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
20. J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
21. Josh Jones, OT, Houston
23. A.J. Epenesa, DL, Iowa
24. Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
26. Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
28. D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia
29. Zach Baun, LB, Wisconsin
30. Ross Blacklock, DL, TCU
31. Grant Delpit, S, LSU
33. Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC
35. Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
38. Neville Gallimore, DL, Oklahoma
41. Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
42. Matt Hennessy, OL, Temple
43. Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
45. Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota
46. Lucas Niang, OT, TCU
47. Lloyd Cushenberry, OL, LSU
48. Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
49. Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir Rhyne
50. Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah