2020 NFL Draft: Analysis and Grades for All 32 First-Round Picks

Jesse Pantuosco
April 23, 2020 - 7:00 pm
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The wait is over. We made it. The NFL Draft is finally here, in all its virtual glory. To celebrate this momentous occasion, I’ll be tracking every pick Thursday night with live grades and analysis. Think your team struck first-round gold? I’ll be the judge of that. Strap in for a night that promises to be equal parts entertaining and chaotic.

1. Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU

The no-brainer of all no-brainers. We’ve known the reigning Heisman winner was going to Cincy since January. Burrow isn’t the perfect quarterback prospect—his arm strength is run-of-the-mill—but the knocks on him are few and far between. The native Ohioan is as NFL-ready as they come and a home-run pick for a talent-starved franchise in desperate need of stability.

Grade: A

2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, Edge, Ohio State

Another free space. Whether you’re sold on Dwayne Haskins as Washington’s future franchise quarterback or not, the Redskins couldn’t afford to let Young play for anyone else. Fresh off leading the country in sacks (and he missed two games!), Young is a readymade NFL star and a sorely-needed presence for a Washington defense that was one of the league’s worst in 2019 (sixth-most yards allowed). The Redskins have had some bad misses over the years, but this won’t be one of them.

Grade: A

3. Detroit Lions: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

The Lions seriously considered trading this pick, but I think they got it right with Okudah, the clear top cornerback in this year’s class. Despite low interception totals (only three over his entire OSU tenure), Okudah is a beast in coverage and has all the attributes—size, speed, you name it—needed to be a shutdown NFL corner. He also fills a major need for the Lions, who dealt disgruntled All-Pro Darius Slay to the Eagles earlier this offseason.

Grade: A-

4. New York Giants: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia

I’m not in love with this pick, especially with Clemson stud Isaiah Simmons still on the board. Thomas does fill a need for the Giants, who could use a big body to protect sack-prone QB Daniel Jones. However, I think Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs, the most athletic of this year’s top tackles, would have been a higher-upside selection.

Grade: B-

5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama

After a week of toying with us, the Dolphins did the sensible thing and roped in their future franchise quarterback. Durability concerns gave some teams pause during the draft process but Tua is the real deal, a former Heisman runner-up and National Champion with Brees-esque accuracy and strong pocket instincts. With a more than capable bridge quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tagovailoa can use the upcoming season as a red-shirt year before taking the reins in 2021. Props to GM Chris Grier for trusting his gut.

Grade: A-

6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

The Bolts drafted for need and I won’t fault them for that. Was Herbert the best player available? No sir. But he offers plenty of raw talent (prototypical size, arm strength, mobility) and obviously fills a pressing need for the Chargers, who turned the page on Philip Rivers this offseason. His accuracy struggles could prove frustrating, but at an evolving position, Herbert should be rewarded for his athleticism. I see him carving out a Josh-Allen type career as a strong-armed gunslinger who can tuck and run.

Grade: B

7. Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

There was concern Brown might fall a bit after testing poorly at the Combine, but I’m glad he didn’t. Brown was a monster at Auburn, garnering SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors as a senior in 2019. He won’t get to the quarterback much, but Brown’s run-plugging prowess should serve him well at the next level. I was quietly hoping the Panthers would draft Simmons to replace retired linebacker Luke Kuechly, but I still think Brown has the goods to be a productive pro, if not a dominant one.

Grade: B+

8. Arizona Cardinals: Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson

A linebacker/safety hybrid with an almost impossible blend of size (6’4”/238) and speed (4.39 forty), Simmons is one of the most versatile prospects we’ve ever seen. I’m sure it took impressive restraint for offensive-leaning head coach Kliff Kingsbury not to add another weapon for reigning Rookie of the Year Kyler Murray at eighth overall (not that the Cardinals needed one after fleecing the Texans in last month's DeAndre Hopkins trade), but Simmons was simply too good to pass up. A chameleon who can quite literally line up anywhere on the field, Simmons is going to be an absolute joy to watch at the next level and it’s baffling he fell this far.

Grade: A

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida

This is earlier than I thought Henderson would go, but Jacksonville was wise to bolster its secondary following recent trades of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Though prone to lapses and nowhere near as technically proficient as Okudah, the clear alpha in this year’s cornerback crop, Henderson has the size (6’1”/204) and athleticism to be an NFL mainstay. Keep in mind, the Jags have another first-round pick coming. Perhaps they’ll address the offensive side with that selection.

Grade: B

10. Cleveland Browns: Jedrick Wills, OT, Alabama

The Browns’ offensive line needed an overhaul after yielding an embarrassing 41 sacks last year. By spending big bucks on Jack Conklin in free agency and addressing their blind-side need with Jedrick Wills in Round 1, Cleveland's O line transformation is complete. There was talk of the Browns potentially trading back and snagging Boise State tackle Ezra Cleveland later in the first round but obviously that didn't materialize. Baker Mayfield experienced a down year in 2019 but should benefit from much better protection in year three of his Cleveland reign.

Grade: B+

11. New York Jets: Mekhi Becton, OT, New York Jets

Becton is a giant (6’7”/364) with insane length and surprising athleticism for a player his size, but his fundamentals are raw and his conditioning could be a problem down the road. The 21-year-old's upside is through the roof, but the more polished Tristan Wirfs would have been a safer and arguably better selection here. I also thought we might see the Jets add a weapon for Sam Darnold, particularly after letting downfield whiz Robby Anderson walk in free agency, but apparently Joe Douglas and Adam Gase had other plans.

Grade: C+

12. Las Vegas Raiders: Henry Ruggs, WR, Alabama

The Raiders finally broke the seal with Ruggs, making him the first receiver selected in this year’s draft. Ruggs was out-shined by teammate Jerry Jeudy during his ‘Bama tenure but you can’t teach his 4.27 speed. A vertical assassin in the mold of Tyreek Hill, Ruggs is the game-changing deep weapon the Raiders sorely lacked last season. Oakland—I mean Vegas—has a penchant for overthinking things but that wasn't the case this time as the Raiders had a plus athlete at a position of need fall right in their lap. Well done, Jon Gruden.

Grade: A-

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa

I’m not entirely sure why Tampa needed to trade up for Wirfs—I doubt the Niners were considering him and the other three tackles in this year’s core four (Andrew Thomas, Jedrick Wills and Mekhi Becton) were already spoken for. Nonetheless, the Bucs took care of business, nabbing an athletic tackle to protect Tom Brady. It’s only April, but on paper, Tampa Bay’s offense looks absolutely stacked.

Grade: B+

14. San Francisco 49ers: Javon Kinlaw, DT, South Carolina

Rather than reaching for a cornerback (C.J. Henderson obviously didn’t make it to them at 14), John Lynch went with the best player available in Kinlaw, a stout lane-filler who projects as an immediate NFL starter. It makes sense, especially after the 49ers traded away their top interior defender, DeForest Buckner, earlier this offseason. I’m a little surprised San Francisco passed on star receivers CeeDee Lamb and Jerry Jeudy, but Lynch understands this is a deep wideout class and the Niners can easily address that need later.

Grade: A-

15. Denver Broncos: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama

Jerry Jeudy, college football’s Biletnikoff Award recipient in 2018, making it to 15 is highway robbery. With Jeudy joining an offense already equipped with 1,000-yard receiver Courtland Sutton, emerging tight end Noah Fant, free-agent prize Melvin Gordon and cannon-armed sophomore Drew Lock, scoreboard operators in the Mile High City will be plenty busy this year. Buckle up, AFC West opponents. The Broncos have arrived.

Grade: A

16. Atlanta Falcons: A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson

This was a worst-case scenario for the Falcons, who were surely banking on Kinlaw being available at this juncture. LSU pass-rusher K’Lavon Chaisson would have been a natural pivot off of Kinlaw, but instead Atlanta reached for Terrell, who many pegged as a fringe first-rounder. Terrell does fill a need for the Falcons following the departure of long-time corner Desmond Trufant, who was released as a cap casualty earlier this offseason. But I’m surprised Dan Quinn, who is very much on the hot seat after a thoroughly disappointing 2019, didn’t make a bigger splash with this pick.

Grade: C

17. Dallas Cowboys: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

Knowing this was a deep receiver class, many teams chose to address different needs in Round 1, allowing Jeudy and Lamb to fall further than expected. Seeing an opportunity to bolster Dak Prescott’s supporting cast, the Cowboys pounced, landing arguably the draft’s top wideout. Lamb is a certified steal and should make Dallas—already well-stocked at receiver with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup—an absolute juggernaut offensively. K’Lavon Chaisson or a linebacker would have made equal sense for Dallas, but Jerry Jones had to be downright giddy that Lamb was still available at 17.

Grade: A

18. Miami Dolphins: Austin Jackson, OT, USC

The Dolphins have played it by the book so far, confronting their two biggest needs by securing a franchise quarterback (Tua Tagovailoa) and adding a body guard to protect him. Jackson is a clear step down from the Big Four of Thomas, Wills, Becton and Wirfs, but he’s still brimming with athletic potential. Given Tua’s extensive injury history, the Dolphins needed an enforcer and Jackson, a 6’5”, 322-pound goliath, certainly fits that description.

Grade: B

19. Las Vegas Raiders: Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State

After nailing their first pick of the draft, the Raiders went totally off the board with Arnette, who seemed destined for a mid-round selection before Gruden went maverick with what has to be the most puzzling pick of Round 1. Full disclosure, our team at RADIO.COM didn’t even write a scouting report for Arnette. That's how confident we were that he wouldn't be selected in the first two rounds. The All-Big Ten second-teamer flashed potential during his stay in Columbus but not enough to warrant a reach of this magnitude. Someone should have commandeered Gruden's laptop before he had a chance to submit this head-scratcher.

Grade: D

20. Jacksonville Jaguars: K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge, LSU

With malcontent Yannick Ngakoue a goner (and becoming more hostile by the day), the Jaguars worked quickly to address their pass-rushing need, pulling the trigger on Chaisson, who somehow made it all the way to pick 20. A key contributor to LSU’s National Championship team in 2019, Chaisson has the size and moxie to be a productive edge disruptor for many years to come. With Chaisson and C.J. Henderson in tow, the Jags’ defense, once considered a liability, is slowing coming together.

Grade: A-

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU

We knew the Eagles were taking a receiver here, though most expected it to be LSU slot creation Justin Jefferson. That’s probably who it should have been, though Reagor certainly intrigued during his time at TCU, particularly in 2018 when he erupted for 11 touchdowns (nine receiving, two rushing) en route to earning All-Big 12 recognition. Reagor’s lackluster 2019 and his equally underwhelming Combine performance both raise questions, but his speed and elite playmaking should give resourceful head coach Doug Pederson plenty to work with.

Grade: B

22. Minnesota Vikings: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU

The Eagles teed this one up for the Vikes by mysteriously passing on Jefferson at 21. The slot maven was a critical component of LSU’s title team in 2019, breaking out for a nation-leading 111 catches while emerging as one of America’s top receivers. He has big shoes to fill as Stefon Diggs’ replacement, but Jefferson offers a deep bag of tricks and shouldn’t take long to become a difference maker in the Gopher State.

Grade: A-

23. Los Angeles Chargers: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma

Most of us thought the Chargers would call it a day after anointing Justin Herbert their new franchise quarterback, but instead Los Angeles traded back into the first round, striking a deal with New England for the 23rd pick. They made good use of it too, poaching the top off-ball backer of this year’s bunch in Oklahoma standout Kenneth Murray. It’s a case of the rich getting richer with Murray adding to what was already a suffocating Chargers defense featuring perennial Pro Bowlers Joey Bosa, Casey Heyward and Derwin James, among other headaches.

Grade: B+

24. New Orleans Saints: Cesar Ruiz, C, Michigan

I was convinced the Saints would take a receiver here but the plan must have changed when Philadelphia and Minnesota nabbed pass-catchers with consecutive picks right before them. But as far as backup plans go, New Orleans could have done a lot worse than Ruiz, a versatile interior lineman who got his feet wet at multiple positions (guard and center) during his three-year run in Ann Arbor. It made sense for the Saints to invest in their O line, especially with aging signal-caller Drew Brees getting long in the tooth.

Grade: B

25. San Francisco 49ers: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

The reigning NFC Champs made out like bandits Thursday, plucking trench-warrior Javon Kinlaw with the 14th pick before circling back to receiver later in the first round. Aiyuk isn’t a finished product by any means but the raw tools are there and he gives the Niners another weapon to pair with Deebo Samuel on the outside. The addition of Aiyuk should lessen the sting of Emmanuel Sanders’ free-agent exodus.

Grade: B

26. Green Bay Packers: Jordan Love, QB, Utah State

Now this is a spicy one. After putting it off for years, it appears the Packers finally have a succession plan in place for Aaron Rodgers, who is showing signs of decline after a decade of near perfection. Green Bay’s top priority entering the draft was to add a body to the team’s woefully thin receiving corps, but obviously that didn’t pan out with Jalen Reagor, Justin Jefferson and Brandon Aiyuk coming off the board in rapid succession. Frankly, Love wasn’t very good last year (FBS-high 17 interceptions) but his skill set is reminiscent of Patrick Mahomes, making him worthy of a late first-round flyer. The Packers traded up four spots for Love, suggesting quarterback may have been their plan all along.

Grade: C+

27. Seattle Seahawks: Jordyn Brooks, LB, Texas Tech

The Seahawks were one of the hardest teams to mock for with no clear consensus as to what Pete Carroll and company might do at 27. While taking Brooks this early would certainly qualify as bold, I kind of respect it. Just last week on You Better You Bet (shameless RADIO.COM plug), Brian Baldinger compared Brooks to Seahawks star Bobby Wagner, who also played under Matt Wells in college. Brooks’ superior instincts and underrated athleticism make him a diamond in the rough, though adding a tackle like Ezra Cleveland or Josh Jones to protect Russell Wilson probably would have been a wiser investment.

Grade: B-

28. Baltimore Ravens: Patrick Queen, LB, LSU

There was plenty of moving and shaking in Round 1, but the Ravens didn’t fall for those shenanigans. They waited patiently for their one bite at the first-round apple and what a bite it was. Queen only started one year for the Bayou Bengals, but that one season, which culminated with a victory parade in Baton Rouge, was all he needed to stamp his NFL ticket. After losing C.J. Mosley during last year’s free-agent cycle and Matt Judon potentially headed for the same fate (he’ll play under the franchise tag in 2020), the Ravens knew they needed to snag a linebacker and Queen was one of the best they could have gotten.

Grade: A-

29. Tennessee Titans: Isaiah Wilson, OT, Georgia

A SpongeBob-loving behemoth, the 6’6,” 350-pound Wilson did a masterful job protecting Jake Fromm in 2019 and parlayed that sensational season into a surprise first-round selection. It makes sense the Titans went this route after surrendering an unacceptable 56 sacks last season (third-most) while watching Pro Bowl right tackle Jack Conklin defect to Cleveland in free agency. It’s debatable whether Wilson should have been taken over Josh Jones or Ezra Cleveland (both first-round snubs), but he’ll certainly help Tennessee in its ongoing efforts to keep Ryan Tannehill upright.

Grade: B

30. Miami Dolphins: Noah Igbinoghene, Auburn, CB

Brian Flores let his freak flag fly on this one. I was crossing my fingers Miami would take the plunge and draft Jonathan Taylor at 30 but instead Flores threw us all for a loop by adding Igbinoghene to what was already a potent secondary. The receiver-turned-DB has some intriguing traits and should be a useful special teamer from the jump, but his selection here seems like an unnecessary reach, especially when Miami already possesses two of the league’s highest-paid corners (Xavien Howard and Byron Jones). This Hail Mary looks even stranger when you consider some of the names still available at cornerback (Kristian Fulton, Trevon Diggs and Jaylon Johnson, just to name a handful).

Grade: C

31. Minnesota Vikings: Jeff Gladney, CB, TCU

The Vikings checked two big items off their shopping list Thursday, addressing receiver by drafting Justin Jefferson and later poaching Gladney, a physical albeit undersized TCU product, to fill the secondary void left by Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes. Gladney regressed last season after an eye-opening 2018 campaign in Fort Worth, but his fearlessness and confrontational “me against the world” mentality should serve him well in the big leagues. Not a home-run selection by any means, but with Gladney, the Vikes are getting a hard-hit double to left field.

Grade: B

32. Kansas City Chiefs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, LSU

To quote the world’s smartest janitor Will Hunting, how do you like them apples? The Chiefs were a well-oiled machine last year (hence the Super Bowl banner hanging from the Arrowhead rafters), but if KC could spruce up any part of its offense, it would be the team’s relatively low-wattage backfield. Edwards-Helaire, one of an astounding five LSU alums taken in the first round, is here to fix that in a hurry. Given his receiving prowess, the clever 21-year-old should be an absolute terror as the newest cog in Andy Reid’s high-octane offense. Jonathan Taylor and D’Andre Swift are probably stronger all-around prospects than CEH, but the scheme fit is seamless.

Grade: B+

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