Zach's Draft Corner: NFL Draft Winners and Losers
Image Credit: John Lynch
Welcome to Zach’s Draft Corner, where it’s always amateur hour.
The 2020 NFL draft is in the books, and it was certainly one to remember. It’s tough to really know who won and lost the draft until the players have a few years in the league, but it’s not going to stop me from trying. Based on my player grades and the actual draft results, here are my winners and losers of the draft.
Winner – Denver Broncos
Every year, you fall in love with plenty of draft prospects. Those players come on the clock, and you yearn for your team to draft them, and it rarely happens. If I happened to be a Broncos fan, I’m pretty sure this would have been my exact draft. It started early, with the Broncos grabbing two of my top eight receivers in Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler without having to move up at all. They went on to draft one of my favorite zone cornerbacks in Michael Ojemudia, my second-rated interior offensive lineman in Lloyd Cushenberry, my favorite defensive sleeper in McTelvin Agim, a super athletic tight end in Albert Okwuegbunam, and some talented depth on day three. This is one draft where I seriously do not think I would have made any pick differently. Bravo, Denver.
Loser – Green Bay Packers
The draft is not just about talent. It is largely about fit and opportunity. It is about finding the areas of your roster that can be improved the most with the players available on your board at the time. It’s also about using your resources wisely. Championship rosters are difficult to build, and you need to capitalize on that opportunity when you are given the chance. Most teams struggle to keep the championship window open, but the Packers seemed to slam it shut. The Packers needed immediate help, but instead focused on the future in drafting Jordan Love, A.J. Dillon, and Josiah Deguara with their first three picks. I don’t necessarily hate any of those players in a vacuum. For the Packers, Love will likely not see the field over Aaron Rodgers, Dillon will struggle to find playing time over Aaron Jones and Jamal Williams, and Deguara is a blocking tight end with some upside as a receiver. For a team that lacked the playmakers on both sides of the ball to keep up with the truly elite teams, drafting three players with their only early picks who are not going to be playmakers on the field in 2020 is questionable, at best.
Winner – San Francisco 49ers
Call it homerish if you want, but the 49ers did the best with what they had. Maneuvering the first round with expertise to get replacements for the two biggest names to leave your roster (at the time), taking the risk that they would be able to obtain Trent Williams with pity picks to replace the third biggest name to leave your roster, and using the rest of the draft picks available to them to fill key holes left by the remaining departures put the 49ers in the best possible place a team could be in when they almost won the Super Bowl: the same place. That’s hard to do in a league with a salary cap and free agency.
Loser – Seattle Seahawks
They seem to be a loser every year with strange overdrafts. In a league that is all about throwing the ball or finding some sort of balance, the Seahawks went run heavy across the board. Jordyn Brooks is a day three talent as a run stuffing linebacker with no tape of being effective in coverage, and they took him in the first round over Patrick Queen. Darrell Taylor is a defensive end better suited to play the run, and Damien Lewis is a guard that specializes in run blocking and who will get bowled over by the talented interior defensive linemen of the NFC West in pass rush situations. The rest of their draft focused on talents better in the run game than the pass game when they took multiple tight ends who block better than they receive (Colby Parkinson and Stephen Sullivan), another defensive end who plays the run better than the pass (Alton Robinson), a running back with limited ability as a receiver (DeeJay Dallas), and the fourth best receiver on the Florida roster (Freddie Swain). The value just wasn’t there.
Winner – Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens happened to pick just after the Seahawks in the regular order of the draft, and it always seems like the teams that draft well take advantage of questionable decisions right in front of them. Seattle drafted the wrong linebacker, letting Patrick Queen fall into the Ravens’ laps. Seattle overdrafted the wrong offensive lineman, letting Baltimore go after Tyre Phillips and Ben Bredeson. Seattle drafted odd defensive linemen, letting Baltimore grab Justin Madibuike and Broderick Washington. Round that out with highly talented players like J.K. Dobbins, Devin Duvernay, James Proche, and Geno Stone, and the Ravens have one of my favorite draft classes.
Loser – Los Angeles Chargers
The Chargers needed to get some big names to fill the seats of their new stadium, since nobody has seemed to care about the Chargers since the days of Fouts. They were pressured into drafting a quarterback early, and Justin Herbert was the benefactor. I’m not a Herbert fan, at least as a top ten prospect. They then traded back into the first round, giving up multiple picks for the opportunity to draft Kenneth Murray, a player I didn’t have close to my top five at the position, ahead of Patrick Queen. That left them with only a few day three picks left, and the picks were uninspiring at best in Joshua Kelley, Joe Reed, Alohi Gilman, and K.J. Hill. Not the best way for the Chargers to open their new home.
Winner – Work-Life Balance
The virtual draft was fantastic. Coaches and scouts all seemed to enjoy the additional family time they were able to grab during the stay at home orders. We got a glimpse into that family life, seeing the good (Kliff Kingsbury’s house is straight out of a Hollywood movie about a playboy billionaire), the bad (Roger Goodell slowly sinking deeper and deeper into his chair as day two dragged on past midnight), and the hilarious (Bill Belichick getting off camera as quickly as possible to be replaced with his dog Nike). It was incredible television.
Loser – Every Draft Prospect
At least that’s how the broadcast seemed with mentioning every tragedy every player has ever faced for the entirety of three days. Tragedy can make for good television, and those segments can really draw in the crowd when done right. However, I think ESPN just tried finding people to kill off themselves just so they could get more of these storylines. During one of the weirdest times in our lifetimes, we don’t want to be pounded over the head with tragedy. How about something uplifting every once in a while?
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