Sports fans finally had something to cheer about when the 2020 NFL Draft went ahead as scheduled. The NFL draft, held virtually due to the coronavirus epidemic, went off without a hitch. The first round actually set a television ratings record.
When the seven-round event ended and the dust settled, there were a handful of winners and losers.
Cincinnati Bengals – NFL Draft WINNER
The Bengals reaped the benefit of having the first overall pick selecting Heisman Trophy winner and national champion quarterback Joe Burrow of LSU. Burrow should step in and become the face of the franchise for the next decade.
Burrow wasn’t all Cincinnati got. With the first pick in the second round, the Bengals took 6-foot-4-inch Clemson WR Tee Higgins. Cincy added valuable defensive depth in the later rounds with LB Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB Logan Wilson, and DE Khalid Khareem.
Green Bay Packers – NFL Draft LOSER
They aren’t all winners at the draft. The Packers appeared to be ready to take one of the many wide receivers available in the first round. They did not. Instead, they traded up a few spots to select QB Jordan Love.
Of the top four quarterbacks in the draft, Love was the wild card. He has all the physical tools, but he led all of FBS with 17 interceptions primarily against Group of 5 competition. Oh, and the Packers never selected a wide receiver.
Wide Receivers – NFL Draft WINNERS
Speaking of wide receivers, a record thirteen of them went in the first two rounds of the draft. Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III was the first off the board going at No. 12 to the Las Vegas Raiders. Ruggs ran a 4.27 40-yard dash at the combine and Raiders head coach Jon Gruden couldn’t pass up that kind of speed.
Five more receivers followed in the first round including Ruggs’ teammate Jerry Jeudy (Denver, No. 15) and Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb (Dallas, No. 17). Higgins was the first pick of the second round followed immediately by USC’s Michael Pittman who went to Indianapolis.
A total of seven receivers went in Round 2 and a total of 35 were taken in the draft. That means 14 percent of all players selected were wide receivers.
Chicago Bears – NFL Draft LOSER
The Bears entered the 2020 NFL draft with nine tight ends on their roster. It would have been safe to assume Chicago would look elsewhere for their first pick. That assumption would end up being wrong.
Left without a first-round pick due to the Khalil Mack trade in 2018, the Bears would select Notre Dame TE Cole Kmet with the No. 43 pick overall in the second round. There is no question that Kmet can end up being a starter for the Bears, but Chicago could enter training camp with 10 tight ends. What they really needed was offensive line help.
Tampa Bay – NFL Draft WINNER
Head coach Bruce Arians was hired in Tampa Bay to do one thing – win. He’s planning on doing that sooner rather than later. The Bucs have had an offseason to remember. First, they acquired future Hall of Fame QB Tom Brady in free agency. Then, they snagged his former teammate in New England, TE Rob Gronkowski.
In the draft, Arians got the exact help the Bucs need. First, Tampa Bay selected a future All-Pro in OT Tristan Wirfs who, at 6-5 and 320 pounds, ran a 4.85 40-yard dash and recorded a 36.5-inch vertical jump.
Arians grabbed a future starting safety in Minnesota’s Antoine Winfield Jr. in Round 2 and added RB depth with Vanderbilt’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Louisiana’s speedy Raymond Calais. The Bucs also got a steal of a wide receiver in Tyler Johnson, who had 86 catches for over 1,300 yards and 13 touchdowns last season at Minnesota.
Houston – NFL Draft LOSER
The Texans 2020 draft was doomed long before it started. Last year, head coach and general manager Bill O’Brien sent two first-round picks, one this year, to Miami for OT Laremy Tunsil. Then, Houston traded away DE Jadeveon Clowney and netted one draft pick – a third-rounder.
To top it off, O’Brien sent one of the game’s best receivers – DeAndre Hopkins – to Arizona and did not receive a first-round pick in return.
In the first 90 selections of the 2020 draft, Houston had one pick. They selected TCU’s Ross Blacklock, a solid defensive tackle prospect. Needing a receiver, O’Brien waited until the seventh round of one of the widest receiver-stocked drafts of the last decade. Houston picked Isaiah Coulter, who played his college football at Rhode Island of the FCS.
The SEC – NFL Draft WINNER
The SEC is the nation’s top college football conference for a reason. The conference produced a whopping 39 percent – 25 picks total – of the picks made in the first two rounds of the draft.
In the end, the SEC would have a total of 63 NFL draftees. The Big Ten was a distant second with 48. LSU, the national champion, accounted for 14 picks by itself. Alabama had nine and Florida and Georgia had seven each.