Music Editor and American sports geek Dom Lee previews this week's hotly anticipated NFL draft, and identifies which players will be ones to watch from Thursday night.
The 2020 NFL draft is just a couple of days away and is lining up to be one of the most intriguing in the league’s long history for a number of reasons. It goes without saying that the Coronavirus will have a huge impact on proceedings, as the 2020 draft will now be taking place virtually. Originally, the draft would have been taking place in fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada to celebrate the Raiders relocation to Sin City from their former home in Oakland, California. Teams will no longer be able to have their draft “war rooms” where they can decide on their picks, they will instead be using conference calls, and players will stay at home rather than taking the walk down the strip to shake commissioner Roger Goodell’s hand.
Admittedly, it’s a huge shame that the draft won’t be taking place in Vegas, as the event would have been pretty spectacular. However, the NFL has done the right thing by taking the current situation into consideration.
Another thing to consider is that teams were for the most part unable to attend pre-draft workouts for potential picks and were unable to conduct in-person meetings. This could affect the draft in a major way as question marks are unable to be addressed.
The second reason that this draft is particularly interesting is that the 2020 draft class is easily one of the best in recent years, with a lot of depth in key positions. I’ll be giving you a breakdown of some of the key positions that are in need for the NFL’s 32 teams and where the key players in those positions might be drafted.
The Quarterback is easily the most important and influential position on the field, as without a reliable Quarterback a team won’t get points on the board and won’t win games. As such, Quarterbacks are usually selected high in the draft and often the best Quarterback in the draft is taken with the first pick. The 2020 draft is no different, with the projected number one pick being Joe Burrow of LSU. Burrow seemed to come out of nowhere this year and took an underdog LSU team all the way to a national championship. The Quarterback had an all-time great season, winning the Heisman trophy, and will likely be returning to his home state of Ohio to play for the Cincinnati Bengals who have the first pick.
However, while Burrow is the consensus number one pick, there is some debate over where the other high-profile Quarterbacks will be taken. Alabama signal caller Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert of Oregon are two players whose names could be called one after the other on draft night. Coming into the 2019-2020 College season Tua was easily the most sought after player, with the phrase “tank for Tua” being coined as NFL teams looked to compete for the worst record in the league and the best possible chance to draft him. However, a hip injury ruled him out of the rest of the season and as a result he has now been overtaken by the sensational Joe Burrow. On the flip side Justin Herbert is an intriguing player. Oregon were a much less stacked team than Alabama, but Herbert impressed at the senior bowl and at the combine. As a result these Quarterbacks are expected to be selected by either the Miami Dolphins at 5 and the Los Angeles Chargers at 6. I think Tua will probably be drafted by the Dolphins at 5 and Herbert will go to the Chargers. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the opposite ends up happening or even if one of these players slides down the draft- particularly as teams are unable to assess Tua’s health in person.
The final Quarterback likely to be taken in the first round is Jordan Love of Utah State. Love has all the tools to be a fantastic player. He has a huge arm and is very mobile. However, his game is quite unrefined and there are concerns about his accuracy. Love would be best suited to a team like the Colts who have an ageing Philip Rivers who can start for at least a year while Love develops. However, don’t be surprised to see Love being drafted by the New England Patriots to replace Tom Brady who will now be playing his football in Tampa Bay. Beyond the first round teams could also find value in players like Jacob Eason and Jalen Hurts- in my opinion one of the most underrated players in the draft- but the consensus is that they have lower ceilings than the four likely to be taken in the first round.
Predicted Quarterback picks:
Pick 1- Joe Burrow- Cincinatti Bengals
Pick 5- Tua Tagoavailoa- Miami Dolphins
Pick 6- Justin Herbert- Los Angeles Chargers
Pick 23- Jordan Love- New England Patriots
The 2020 NFL draft has been earmarked as having one of the best Wide Receiver classes of all time, with some mock drafts projecting up to seven wideouts going in the first round. The marquee names at this position are Jerry Jeudy of Alabama and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb. Jeudy is an incredible route-runner and can get himself on almost every snap which is a highly valued skill. Lamb is an after-the-catch specialist and once he has the ball in his hands can be incredibly dangerous. Both players are projected to go in the first 15 picks as there are a lot of teams who need more production at Wide Receiver. Two other standouts are Henry Ruggs III also of Alabama and Justin Jefferson from the championship winning LSU Tigers. However, the draft is very deep at the Wide Receiver position so teams not picking high in the first round can find some incredible value in players such as Jalen Reagor, Chase Claypool and Denzel Mims at the bottom of the first round or in later rounds.
Projected Wide Receiver picks:
Pick 11- CeeDee Lamb- New York Jets
Pick 12- Jerry Jeudy- Oakland Raiders
Pick 15- Henry Ruggs III- Denver Broncos
Pick 21- Justin Jefferson- Philadelphia Eagles
Outside of the Quarterback, the Offensive Line is probably the second most important position on the offensive side of the ball. There will be a lot of teams looking to draft linemen in the first round this year, mostly at the Tackle position rather than Guard or Center. Two of the big names are Tristan Wirfs of Iowa and Mekhi Becton from Louisville who will likely be going early in the middle of the first round. However, with a lot of teams who will be after linemen in the draft don’t be surprised to see a few more names going in the first round and maybe even a few trades to get the important player to help protect the franchise Quarterback.
Projected Offensive Line picks:
Pick 8- Tristan Wirfs- Arizona Cardinals
Pick 10- Andrew Thomas- Cleveland Browns
Pick 18- Mekhi Becton- Miami Dolphins
Pick 30- Josh Jones- Green Bay Packers
There’s no question as to who the marquee pick is here. Defensive End Chase Young from Ohio State is in the conversation for the best player in the draft and as such is projected to go second to the Washington Redskins. Young is a complete player at the position and gets after the Quarterback relentlessly. Barring the Redskins making a decision so dumb that only they could make it- Young will be heading to the capital for the upcoming season. Aside from Chase Young, Defensive Tackle Derrick Brown is likely to go in the top 10, with the Carolina Panthers looking the likely destination at 7. Brown is the premier interior defensive lineman in this draft and is a specialist at stopping the run with his speed between the sidelines setting him apart from other players. However, while these two players are certainly in demand there is a lot left to be desired in terms of premier Defensive Linemen in this draft, with Linebacker and the Defensive Back positions being much deeper.
Projected Defensive Line Picks:
Pick 2- Chase Young- Washington Redskins
Pick 7- Derrick Brown- Carolina Panthers
Pick 14- Javon Kinlaw- Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pick 16- K’Lavon Chaisson- Atlanta Falcons
This draft is stacked with first round talent at Linebacker. Isaiah Simmons from Clemson is one of the best defensive players in the draft and will most likely go in the top 10, possibly to the New York Giants at 4. Simmons is a capable run defender and has a real talent for pass rushing. There will also be a lot of interest in Linebackers in the middle and at end of the first round. Expect there to be a lot of competition for LSU’s Patrick Queen and Kenneth Murray from the Oklahoma Sooners.
Predicted Linebacker picks:
Pick 4- Isaiah Simmons- New York Giants
Pick 20- Patrick Queen- Jacksonville Jaguars
Pick 24- Kenneth Murray- New Orleans Saints
Cornerback is probably the second deepest position in this draft after Wide Receiver, while Safety is a little less stacked. Ohio State’s corner Jeff Okudah was one of the key players for the Buckeyes last season and will undoubtedly be the first Defensive Back taken in the draft. If the Lions don’t trade away from 3, he’ll likely be headed to Detroit. Clemson’s AJ Terrell has also been linked with the Las Vegas Raiders at 19, who desperately need improved pass coverage. Alabama’s Trevon Diggs may also go in the bottom of the first round to join a host of Crimson Tide players to also go on day 1. Also from the Alabama football powerhouse, Xavier McKinney is probably the only safety with a real chance of going in the first round
Projected Defensive Back Picks:
Pick 3- Jeff Okudah- Detroit Lions
Pick 19- AJ Terrell- Las Vegas Raiders
Pick 26- Xavier McKinney- Miami Dolphins
Well, that’s it until the early hours of Thursday morning. All of what I’ve said is just speculation. One thing is for sure, the NFL draft will once again be full of surprises.