As soon as the NFL draft ends there are hundreds of articles stating who won the draft. These are ridiculous as it takes years to determine which team actually had the best draft. Although if you wait a few weeks, using scouting knowledge only known by the pros, you can assess the draft in a rational manner to determine which team made out quite well.
You have to take in consideration the amount of draft capital each team had, then extrapolate the value each team received with the picks they had. By doing so you can see who did the best job of accumulating talent or who wasted the opportunity. I will try to be fair but talent is talent, you cannot dismiss a rival because they increased their talent.
I will be shockingly unbiased in my considerations so don’t get upset with me if you don’t agree. I will use my big board but also I will take into consideration the needs of the teams. Also teams with fewer draft picks won’t be handicapped because of prior trades.
So the top 3 teams in the draft are:
Oh the Ravens, what a shock; for years they have ruled the draft. If not for bad luck and a scary belief in Joe Flacco they should have a few more Super Bowl wins under their belts. Ozzie Newsome is one of the greatest football men in the history of the sport. Yet he is not at the helm anymore (I am sure he is nearby) so this is Eric DeCosta’s team.
This is how you draft. The Ravens need to replace an inside linebacker, so with the 28th pick in the draft they get the top inside linebacker on my board in Patrick Queen. Queen will be a sideline to sideline terror for years to come.
The Ravens need to supplement their running backs, so with the first of their two 2nd round picks, at the 55th pick in the draft, they draft J.K. Dobbins, the best power back in the draft. Dobbins fits into this offense like a glove. They now have a serious stable of backs with Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards and the speed element in Justice Hill.
Baltimore then traded their second pick in the the 2nd round, pick #60, and a 4th round pick, #129, to the New England Patriots for picks #71 and #98 in the 3rd round. This gave Baltimore four picks in the 3rd round, which is a sweet spot in the draft. There was more than ample quality in this deep draft, and contracts are much lower than the first two rounds.
The Ravens need to supplement their defensive line so they get a seriously athletic 3-tech in Justin Madubuike at pick #71 to create havoc on the defensive line. Madubuike is a super athletic, powerful defensive tackle who is a one gapping, penetrating disruptive force. He projects to be a rotational piece on the Ravens’ defensive line for years to come.
With their first three picks the Ravens have fortified the top two levels of their defense (which was strong to begin with) and added to their rushing ability. This is a great start to garnering supremacy in the draft. They continued the domination with three more excellent picks in the 3rd round.
The Ravens added a speedster in Devin Duvernay at pick #92. Duvernay is a 5’ 10” 200 pound (4.39/40) at wide receiver who brings experience as an outside and a slot threat. He is a small but super tough receiver who is a vertical threat from the slot with superior hands.
The Ravens then added the replacement for C.J. Mosley at inside linebacker with the selection of Malik Harrison at pick #98. Harrison is an inside linebacker out of Ohio State. He is 6’ 3”, 247 pounds (4.66/40) and has great length. A smart, hard hitting linebacker with improving instincts, Harrison has huge upside as a three down defender. Imagine adding two inside linebackers with high ceilings in the same draft. Once they both get acclimated with the defense the only problem Baltimore will have is re-signing both of them when their initial contracts are up. Fortunately Queen’s contract comes with the fifth year option attached to all first round picks. That will allow the Ravens to spread out the re-signings. Both players were high on my list but Harrison might turn out to be the better player.
Baltimore’s defense is now super scary with Derek Wolf and Calais Campbell as ends with stud nose tackle Brandon Williams inside. At linebacker the Ravens have Jaylon Ferguson and Matt Judon as rush outside linebackers and Harrison and Queen on the inside. Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey and Jimmy Smith are the outside corners with Tavon Young in the slot. Earl Thomas roams the backend at free safety and Chuck Clark is the box safety.
If you figure the Ravens should have the best rushing attack in the NFL, this offense should be able to control the ball and will own the time of possession battle in most games. This sets Baltimore’s defense up to allow the least points in the league. It shouldn’t even be close.
Continuing in the draft, Baltimore then looked to replace departed interior offensive lineman Marshall Yanda with a mammoth lineman in Tyre Phillips at pick #106. Phillips is a 6’ 5”, 331 pound interior offensive lineman with good movement skills for a big man. Phillips has great length and an amazing 7 foot wingspan, though he lacks experience on the interior. Phillips handled left tackle duties at Mississippi State. He is a mauler in the run game and he should be able to handle pass protection duties at right guard easily
The Ravens finished their draft with offensive guard Ben Bredeson in the 4th round, defensive tackle Broderick Washington in the 5th round, wide receiver James Proche in the 6th round and a smart player, safety Geno Stone in the 7th round. All supply quality depth or special teams value.
Every pick has some superior qualities as Baltimore added possibly two starting inside linebackers, a running back who should get the majority of snaps, a starter and a backup at slot receiver, two rotational defensive tackles, a starting and a backup at interior offensive line and significant value on special teams.
This was just an amazing draft by Baltimore as they maneuvered around to find exceptional value as well as talent. Remember this team was the top seed in the AFC playoffs in 2019, only two wins away from the Super Bowl. In my estimation the Ravens had the best draft class in 2020, it wasn’t even close compared to everyone else.
The Cleveland Browns are a distant second to the Ravens but they still had a very good draft this year that should increase their chances at a playoff berth. I think the totality of the Browns’ draft was great with a couple of first rate selections mixed in, but I had a few nitpicking issues with their selections.
The Browns started the draft with an excellent pick that fell into their laps at pick #10 with Jedrick Wills, an offensive tackle out of Alabama. Wills was the most pro ready tackle of the class in my opinion with superior pass sets. His anchor is very strong, he is an exceptional drive blocker in the run game and he has a nasty demeanor that should be loved by his offensive line coach.
While Wills was probably the safest offensive tackle prospect with the highest floor in the draft, he wasn’t the highest ceiling player at the position. In addition, the Browns are expected to move Wills from the only position he has ever played in college (right offensive tackle) to the left side where there has to be a reasonable doubt of his ability to make the switch.
At left tackle Mekhi Becton was available, and was taken by the Jets with the the next pick at #11. Becton played quite a lot at the left tackle position while at Louisville. Becton in my estimation has the highest ceiling of any offensive line prospect in the draft. His floor has been considered low but I believe that to be overstated quite a bit. There is no reason to assume Becton will not develop into a top 5 left tackle in a few years.
While I understand the Wills pick, considering his skill set, we may look back in 5 years to see that Becton was the better choice for a left tackle. Or we could see the Browns got it right, only time will tell.
The Browns then traded their next choice, pick #41, to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for picks #44 and #160; thus replacing a 5th round pick the Browns had traded before the draft.
With the #44 pick Cleveland received great value by selecting the best safety in the draft in Grant Delpit of LSU. Delpit has sideline to sideline range with a hitter’s mentality. He had a habit of just throwing his body to tackle, but he cleaned a lot of that up in 2019 by working hard on technique. He is still working to become a sure wrap tackler but he has great upside.
By grabbing Delpit Cleveland now has a top 5 secondary in the NFL with Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams as cornerbacks and the trio of Delpit, Andrew Sendejo and Karl Joseph at safety. Delpit should be the lead dog among that group within two years.
The Browns then traded back again, sending their 3rd round pick, #74, plus their 7th round pick, #244, to the New Orleans Saints in exchange for pick #88 and a 3rd round pick in 2021.
With pick #88 in the 3rd round the Browns again got great value when they selected defensive tackle Jordan Elliott of Mississippi State, whom I valued at 30 spots higher. Elliott is a scheme diverse defensive lineman who has quality hand work and powerful upper body strength. He can work as an end or as a 3-tech in an even front. He can also play a 5-tech in an odd front with the ability to hold an edge if he plays with good leverage.
Jordan Elliott’s hands are active and strong with an accurate punch when he uses it. He has a lean, tapered build with decent length with two gapping capabilities. Elliott has some quickness to shoot gaps in a half man role and also some stoutness to drop an anchor to guard his territory. He is a good hand fighter who can jolt his opponent with a powerful punch then slide into the backfield on one side of the lineman. Elliott has a good, not great, first step, but he can occasionally get the jump on offensive linemen to get penetration. He is fast enough to track down QBs from behind and even catch some RBs who take their time getting around the edge.
The Browns next pick was #97 in the 3rd round where they went off the rails a bit with the selection of inside linebacker Jacob Phillips out of LSU. I had Phillips rated much lower though I do like the player. I had him as more of a backup player. It was odd that the Browns wanted a Sam linebacker yet Malik Harrison was on the board. In fact, the Baltimore Ravens took Harrison with the very next pick, which made John Harbaugh give a fist pump on TV from his home as he was the player they really wanted.
Phillips has the speed you want but he is not nearly as strong as Harrison, a quality you need at the Sam position. He has good leadership skills but he lacks great instincts. Phillips also can get stuck on blocks. He played on an all star team at LSU which hid some of his faults. Also Tyre Phillips was still on the board here. Tyre Phillips would have fit in nicely at right guard. The Browns have a few players at that position, but none are upper echelon type players. Tyre Phillips would have been a definite upgrade but they chose to fill the hole in their line up that was created when Joe Schobert left for the Jaguars.
The Browns then made a great selection with pick #115 in the 4th round by drafting the John Mackey award winner, tight end Harrison Bryant. This was an excellent value pick as I had Bryant about a round earlier on my board. Harrison Bryant is a tall, lean, linear tight end who is tougher than he looks, with great hands and play making ability. He is a willing blocker as an inline player who has good technique, positive hand placement and decent lower body strength. Bryant can play anywhere as a receiver. He was split out wide against Jeffrey Okudah while playing Ohio State and made a number of first down catches against the player who is considered the best cornerback prospect in the 2020 draft. Bryant has good leaping ability, which combined with his height and excellent receiving hands, ability to line up anywhere, and the talent to run routes to all three levels of the defense make him a great offensive weapon. He is a tough kid who will fight for the extra yard and is unafraid to absorb or dish out heavy contact.
The Browns now have a three headed monster at tight end with David Njoku, Austin Hooper and Bryant Harrison. This will put pressure on Njoku to become an all around better player or he may find himself playing elsewhere in 2021.
The Browns then used the 5th round pick they acquired earlier from the Colts (#160) to select a quality center prospect in Nick Harris. Harris has some of the best movement skills for a center in this class, but he lacks the strength to hold up against the behemoths in the NFL. He will have time to build his strength as the Browns are set at center right now with J.C. Tretter, who was tied with Connor McGovern of the Jets for the 10th best center in the NFL in 2019 according to Pro Football Focus. To pick up a quality developmental center prospect in the 5th round was a nice get.
The Browns finished their draft with pick #187 in the 6th round, with the selection of wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones out of Michigan. I had Jones a couple of rounds higher; to get him here was a draft steal. I know he was a bust of a prospect for many but he has elite physical traits; he has a SPARQ score of over 99%. Peoples-Jones never lived up to the hype he received as a 5 star athlete but that had more to do with the QB situation at Michigan than him.
People-Jones can bully a corner by boxing him out or just muscling him out of the way. He can high point a ball with the best in this class, rising up over defenders to make the catch. His height combined with his superior jumping ability makes it tough for any defender to make a play on a high throw. His size makes him a perfect candidate for back shoulder throws as the corner will find it hard to work back across his big body.
Peoples-Jones also has great length to snatch balls thrown far from his frame. He has a huge catch radius so a quarterback doesn’t have to be 100% accurate to complete a pass. He has great contact balance, often running through arm tackles and is not easily pushed out of bounds. Peoples-Jones is an excellent return man who has great vision and he has that second gear to run away from pursuers. That is a great get in the 6th round. Many may not like the player but at this point in the draft to get these types of physical traits is amazing.
The Browns added a starting offensive tackle who will start day one; a starting safety who will become the lead dog of the secondary by year two; an athletic rotational defensive tackle; a Sam linebacker to replace Joe Schobert; a great addition to the tight end room; a developmental center and a hyper-athletic receiver. They also picked up a 3rd round pick from the Saints in 2021. Not too bad for a team known for draft day blunders.
The Bills started early in the process by trading away their first round pick plus a few late round picks to obtain wide receiver Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings. By doing so they bring in a #1 receiver who can lead their receiving squad right away. Remember the pandemic is halting much of the off season programs, so many rookie receivers will be behind the learning curve to start the year. It was a bold move but a confident move to give their young QB a quality target.
Buffalo was a strong playoff team last year that lost a heartbreaking game during wild card weekend to the Houston Texans. They believe they are a team on the rise which was only emboldened by Tom Brady’s move to the NFC. The Bills have a young nucleus of players and although they traded away some draft capital for Diggs, they still had 7 draft picks to strengthen their team.
With pick #54 in the second round the Bills drafted A.J. Epenesa (6’ 5” 275 pounds). Epenesa is an edge player with exceptional length, a relentless motor and the size to play as a defensive end in an even front or a 5 tech on the defensive line. He has excellent power and uses good leverage despite his height, with a variety of pass rushing moves. He has an outstanding bull rush, a great swim move and a nice push-pull he used against Michigan with success.
Epenesa’s weight and length make him a natural to knock down passes when he doesn’t make it to the QB. He has a nice anchor when he sets the edge and his generous length makes it hard for RBs to make it around the edge unscathed. Epenesa can move inside to a defensive tackle position and rush equally well against more stout offensive linemen. His length also makes him a strip sack artist as he doesn’t even need to hit the QB to cause a fumble by using those long arms with a well timed swipe.
With pick #86 the Bills added some ruggedness to their running back room with the selection of Zack Moss (5’ 9” 223 pounds) from Utah. Zack Moss is one of the new style backs who will permeate the running back field in the coming years. He is short and stocky which creates natural balance and he has a powerful lower half. Moss is a violent player who relishes contact and tries to make it hurt to tackle him. Tackling Moss is like trying to tackle a boulder that is shot across a field. There is not a lot to grab onto and if he hits you square it’s gonna hurt. He is a straight ahead runner, no backtracking, no dancing, he finds a hole with his good vision and he is through in a shot. He has some quick feet to make a jump cut and he has great ankles to make sharp breaking cuts. Moss seems faster when he sees the goal line in sight and he will power his way then reach the ball across, he wants that TD. He is a good receiver out of the backfield. He runs screens, wheel routes and is a quality dump off that can turn into big plays. Moss has some surprising elusiveness in the open field and his oak tree like thighs break arm tackles with ease. He is a first down maker who knows where he is on the field and is not afraid to drop the pads so defenders have to try and tackle a small refrigerator.
With pick #128 the Bills got some great value in Gabriel Davis (6’ 2” 216 pounds) a big wide receiver from UCF. Davis is a lean, tall angular receiver with good length and prodigious production as an outside receiver. He doesn’t have break away speed but he seems to be faster with the ball in his hands; he can smell the end zone. Davis is a true vertical receiver who excelled at “9” routes, slants and post routes. He is physically solid with good contact balance to tack on extra yardage after the catch. Davis has a big body with great length. He catches the ball out in front of him and away from his body. He is able to use that size as a weapon; once he crosses the face of the corner on a slant route from the outside he can make the catch unimpeded. He has great hands and is fantastic on jump balls and contested catches. Davis has great strength that he uses to fight off corners who can’t match his physicality. He is also a willing and successful blocker off the end. He has an enormous catch radius that combined with his hands make completions an afterthought.
With pick #167 the Bills took a cerebral QB in Jake Fromm (6’ 2” 219 pounds) who profiles as a serviceable backup in the NFL. Even though Fromm is the antithesis of starter Josh Allen he could be a steadying force to lead an offense when things seem dire. His skill set is not unlike that of Tom Brady as he has great leadership skills with the ability to read the entire field, go through his progressions, then find the open receiver. What Fromm doesn’t have is mobility or a strong arm to make a 20 yard sideline throw from the pocket. He may at times be too patient which can get him in trouble because of his lack of quick movement skills. His velocity on his throws means he must be on time and on target or they can be picked off by DBs with good anticipation abilities. While Fromm lacks the big time tools you look for in a QB he can be a winner because of his football acumen.
With pick #188 the Bills made an interesting move by selecting kicker Tyler Bass (5’ 10 185 pounds) from Georgia Southern. Bass has great kickoff ability as he usually booms the ball through the end zone with only 9 kicks being returned all year. It is an interesting pick considering Bass made only 77.4% of his kicks last year, he didn’t attempt many kicks over 50 yards, and he had problems kicking in bad weather (something he is sure to see in Buffalo). I had Rodrigo Blankenship much higher as a prospect and the Bills already have two kickers on the roster in Stephen Hauschka and Kaare Vedvik. To use a 6th round pick on a kicker must mean the Bills are less than enamored with the two players they have under contract. It is a crowded kickers room in Buffalo right now.
With pick #207 the Bills again got some great value with the selection of Isaiah Hodgins (6’ 4” 210 pounds), a big, highly targeted receiver from Oregon State. Hodgins lacks great speed but he has great length with big hands. He is a smart receiver with nuanced moves and great hands. Hodgins is great on contested balls and has enormous size to box out cornerbacks for the ball. Hodgins was the focus of opposing defenses as Oregon State lacked elite offensive players, yet he had 86 receptions for 1,176 yards and 13 TDs in 2019. He fits exactly with the needs of the Bills as he is a go up and get it receiver with the throw it up there QB in Josh Allen. He is a vacuum with the ball in the air and is a steal in the 6th round for the Bills.
With pick #239 the Bills got another steal in Dane Jackson (6’ 0” 187 pounds) a defensive back from Pittsburgh. Jackson is a player who was put on an island at Pittsburgh on the outside and covered whoever came his way without safety help. He was trusted by his defensive coordinator and he didn’t disappoint. Jackson is a sure tackling cornerback who also was great in run support. He had 149 total tackles, with a large number (113) of the solo variety. He also had one of the highest grades (89.8) against the run that PFF had for college corners in 2019. Jackson was a standout performer at the Senior Bowl practices as he was the strongest man cover corner on the field. That coincides with his 35 passes broken up in the last three years for the Panthers along with his under 43% completion rate. He is a fighter who doesn’t back down from a battle no matter who he is up against. He has played in press man, off man, straight man, man free, combo man and all types of zone coverages. He has played in 46 college games as an outside corner so he is as experienced as any cornerback in this draft.
Counting the trade for Stefon Diggs the Bills brought in 3 huge receivers to go along with speedster John Brown and slot maven Cole Beasley. They put some muscle in the RB position with Moss and helped the loss on the edge with the addition of Epenesa. They brought in a heady QB who has good accuracy and a cornerback who will surprise once he gets a chance to prove himself.
The Bills were a solid team in 2019 and they added some qualities they lacked last year. With the division in flux, Buffalo made the most of their picks to position themselves as clear contenders for the division crown. Anything less than a division championship will be looked on as a failure in northwestern New York.
These are my top three drafts in 2020. I am sure there are differences of opinions out there but each of the teams I highlighted helped themselves quite a bit.
That is what I think.
What do you think?