NFL 2020 Off-Season Grades

 Philadelphia American football helmet on the field

It has never been clearer that there is no off season in pro football. Although the Covid-19 global lockdown brought the on-field action screaming to a halt, the NFL draft for the 2020 season broke records for the highest TV ratings in the event’s history.

From the Cincinnati Bengals signing former LSU quarterback Joe Burrow – with a record setting signing bonus close to $24 million – to last pick, speedy linebacker Tae Crowder moving to the New York Giants and leaving Georgia with big shoes to fill, all 32 teams had a go at coming out as strong as possible. But while NFL fans saw their teams improve on paper during the off season, only one team can put together a winning season, no matter how promising the depth charts look following the draft process.

The bulk of the work is now over for the front office, and most teams have finished reconfiguring and reconstructing their defensive and offensive units. But there are still some quality free agents up for grabs. With that in mind, and key additions and subtractions of positions as well as the impact of incoming rookies to the league, we will be ranking (though in no particular order) what we believe to be the top teams coming out of the 2020 NFL draft.

The old adage, that defense wins championships, exists for a reason. Reigning Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs may be an offense-minded team, but it was their stunning display on defense that gave them the big comeback game against the 49ers in the second half of Super Bowl LIV. As a result, the defense will be a major focus for the rankings and the early win/loss predictions of our favorite teams coming out of the draft.

So, whether you are a hardcore NFL fan anticipating a winning roster from your team, or a sports betting fan eagerly updating your online casino app and sportsbook casino sites, we hope you’ll enjoy comparing your own predictions with these brief breakdowns of our top teams following the 2020 draft. 

1. Philadelphia Eagles: B-

The Eagles made just five draft picks in each of the past two seasons, resulting in an expensive, ageing roster that was hanging on to its place among Super Bowl contenders in the NFC. However, in 2020,  the birds made 10 selections having prioritised youth and speed this offseason. General manager Howie Roseman and head coach Doug Pederson have both talked extensively about the need for speed, and they came through this offseason in a big way.

Let’s look at the Philadelphia Eagles draft picks:

  • Round 1 (21st overall) – Jalen Reagor, WR, TCU, Grade B+
  • Round 2 (53rd overall) – Jalen Hurts, QB, Oklahoma, Grade D
  • Round 3 (103rd overall) – Davion Taylor, LB, Colorado, Grade C
  • Round 4 (127th overall) – K’Von Wallace, S, Clemson, Grade B
  • Round 4 (145th overall) – Jack Driscoll, OL, Auburn, Grade B
  • Round 5 (166th overall) – John Hightower, WR, Boise State, Grade A
  • Round 6 (196th overall) – Shaun Bradley, LB, Temple, Grade A-
  • Round 6 (200th overall) – Quez Watkins, WR, Southern Mississippi, Grade B+ 
  • Round 6 (210th overall) – Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn, Grade A+
  • Round 7 (233rd overall) – Casey Toohill, DE, Stanford, Grade B

Many pundits and Eagles fans were perplexed by the selection of QB Jalen Hurts at 21; however, it may become an inspired selection given Carson Wentz’s injury history and the NFL becoming a league where the quarterback position is easily the most vital on every roster. Hurts can be a quality backup and may develop into a star using his running ability in the modern day NFL offence..

The Eagles hit a home run with the selection of Reagor in round one. He brings truly elite speed and explosiveness to the WR corps and plays far bigger than his listed height of 5’11”. Reagor and DeSean Jackson make for a mouthwatering potential duo of deep threats to stretch the field and free up elite tight end duo Zach Ertz and Dallas Goedert.

The Eagles furthered their commitment to adding speed late in the draft with the selections of burners Tim Hightower and Quez Watkins and also made a draft day trade with the 49ers for former Olympic sprinter Marquise Goodwin.

The Eagles will be hoping injuries don’t come back to bite them again this year, but there is the makings of a dominant offense here in 2020.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers: B+

Pittsburgh Steelers team practicing at training camp

The 2019 season was a rough one for the Pittsburgh Steelers, with seasoned quarterback Ben Roethlisberger dropping in week 2. Despite this, the Steelers remained in contention for a wild-card spot for most of the season, which is testimony to the depth of talent in the Steelers’ roster.

The 2020 roster is looking a whole lot like the 2019 iteration of the team, the result of a lack of cap space and no first-round pick. But with Big Ben back on the roster for his 17th season, and a more talented supporting cast than is typically given credit for, this could be the season when the Steelers reclaim their place among the AFC’s elite.

The Pittsburgh Steelers draft picks:

·         Round 2 (49th overall) – Chase Carpool, WR, Grade C+

·         Round 3 (102nd overall) – Alex Highsmith, Edge, Grade B-

·         Round 4 (124th overall) – Anthony McFarland, RB, Grade B 

·         Round 4 (135th overall) – Kevin Dotson, OG, Grade C

·         Round 6 (198th overall)  – Antoine Books Jr., S, Grade B-

·         Round 7 (232nd overall) – Carlos Davis, DT, Grade B

It may be too early to accurately grade the Steelers’ 2020 NFL Draft, although we’ll go ahead and assign it a B+ anyway. Yes it does look a little underwhelming on paper, but Alex Haysmith brings a powerful blend of quickness, burst and end as a pass-rusher to the side. Rookie wide receiver Chase Claypool’s physicality and run-blocking could hold the card to the team once again finding offensive success, and Mike Tomlin presumably didn’t draft running back Anthony McFarland to have him sit on the sidelines.

Given coach Tomlin’s penchant for keeping his cards close to his vest, it’s likely the full picture will only emerge when players report for practice at the end of July. 

3. New York Jets: B-

The Jets needed a strong and profitable draft performance to bounce back from an uncomfortable 2019 season under the guidance of first-year general manager Joe Douglas. Offensive-minded head coach Adam Gase had been expected to move the team on from the Todd Bowles era, but this much anticipated shift was hampered by a ton of injuries, and a lack of consistency on both sides of the ball.

The Jets earn a B- for a 2020 draft class that added players to eight different positions:

·         Round 1(11th overall) – Mekhi Becton, OT Louisville, Grade A-

·         Round 2 (59th overall) – Denzel Mims, WR Baylor, Grade B

·         Round 3 (68th overall) – Ashton Davis, FS, California, Grade C-

·         Round 3 (79th overall) – Jabari Zuniga, EDGE, Florida, Grade C

·         Round 4 (120th overall) – La’Mical Perine, RB, Florida, Grade C-

·         Round 4 (125th overall) – James Morgan, QB, FIU, Grade D+

·         Round 4 (129th overall) – Cameron Clark, OT, Charlotte, Grade B

·         Round 5 (158th overall) – Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia, Grade C+

·         Round 6 (191st overall) – Braden Mann, P, Texas A&M, Grade A

Numbers and flexibility add up to a solid draft for Douglas’s first time out.

The addition of two offensive tackles in Mehki Becton and Cameron Clarke should improve on the prodigious number of sacks the team allowed in 2019, with the six-foot-seven Louisville tackle a particularly safe bet.

Wide receiver Denzel Mims brings speed and a ton of raw talent, while in punter Braden Mann Joe Douglas landed an under-the-radar prospect that could have real impact once he adds consistency to mental toughness and a season average of 50.98 yards per punt.

4. Indianapolis Colts: B+

The Colts should likewise put the 2019 season out of their minds and focus on getting back on track – which the new roster looks set to do. Although without a first-round pick, they still managed to leave the draft with some excellent players that are sure to make an impact, earning a B+ in the process.

Here is the complete draft class of 2020:

·         Round 2 (34th overall) – Michael Pittman, Jr., WR, USC, Grade B

·         Round 2 (41st overall) – Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin, Grade A

·         Round 3 (85th overall) – Julian Blackmon, S, Utah, Grade D

·         Round 3 (122nd overall) – Jacob Eason, QB, Washington, Grade C

·         Round 5 (148th overall) – Danny Pinter, OG, Ball State, Grade B-

·         Round 6 (193rd overall) – Robert Windsor, DT, Penn State, Grade D

·         Round 6 (211th overall) – Isaiah Rodgers, CB, UMass, Grade A

·         Round 6 (212th overall) – Dezmon Patmon, WR, Washington State, Grade A

·         Round 6 (213th overall) – Jordan Glasgow, LB, Michigan, Grade B

The round-two signing of offensive giants Michael Pittman Jr and Jonathan Taylor means QB Philip Rivers gets some decent help at receiver and running back respectively – especially if running back coach Tom Rathman can help Taylor hold on to the football.

There is some risky business with the round-three tapping of Julian Blackmon (who is still on the mend from surgery) but plenty of depth in the shape of undersized but fearless linebacker Jordan Glasgow and Dezmon Patmon who, though he is yet to deliver on the promise he has displayed off and on at Washington State, brings plenty of size and speed.

Another one to watch: the young cornerback Isiah Rodgers, whose 4.28-second, 40-yard dash at his pro day caught the Colts’ savvy and famously forthright general manager Chris Ballard’s eye. 

5. Denver Broncos: A-

Denver Broncos players and technical team at training camp

With a lot of picks heading into the 2020 NFL Draft, the Denver Broncos were looking for playmakers that could throw the ball to their 2019 draft pick Drew Lock, and found them in Jerry Jeudy (easily the top wide receiver in the class) and Penn State’s K.J. Hamler, who was something of a surprise.

Iowa cornerback Michael Ojemudia delivered a second surprise, but the draft board favoured the Broncos throughout, helping them to an A- for a draft class that shapes up like this.

  • Round 1 (15th overall) – Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama, Grade A
  • Round 2 (46th overall) – KJ Hamler, WR, Penn State, Grade B+
  • Round 3 (77th overall) – Michael Ojemudia, DB, Iowa, Grade B-
  • Round 3 (83rd overall) – Lloyd Cushenberry, OL, LSU, Grade A
  • Round 3 (95th overall) – McTelvin Agim, DL, Arkansas, Grade B-
  • Round 4 (118th overall) – Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri, Grade B
  • Round 5 (178th overall) – Justin Strnad, LB, Wake Forest, Grade B+
  • Round 6 (181st overall) – Netane Muti, OL, Fresno State, Grade A+
  • Round 7 (252nd overall) – Tyrie Cleveland, WR, Florida, Grade C+
  • Round 7 (254th overall) – Derrek Tuszka, EDGE, North Dakota State, Grade B

There’s little doubt Broncos fans are in for an entertaining and exciting season. 

If GM John Elway’s objective was to build a nest around his second-year QB, it was one he carried out with gusto. He added speed to offense in Albert Okwuegbunam, picked a powerful mauler in Netane Muti, and ensured WR coach Zach Azzanni would have his hands full by tapping Tyrie Cleveland, a supremely physical athlete who has yet to translate his raw talent onto the field.

6. New York Giants: B

The Giants are on their way to building a solid foundation. New head coach Joe Judge and general manager Dave Gettleman came into the 2020 NFL Draft with the intention of surrounding their young quarterback Daniel Jones with talent, and put together an above-average class.

  • Round 1 (4th overall) – Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia, Grade A
  • Round 2 (36th overall) – Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama, Grade A
  • Round 3 (99th overall) – Matt Peart, OT, Connecticut, Grade B+
  • Round 4 (110th overall) – Darnay Holmes, CB, UCLA, Grade B-
  • Round 5 (150th overall) – Shane Lemieux, OG, Oregon, Grade B
  • Round 6 (183rd overall) – Cameron Brown, LB, Penn St., Grade C
  • Round 7 (218th overall) – Carter Coughlin, LB, Minnesota, Grade B+
  • Round 7 (238th overall) – T.J. Brunson, LB, South Carolina, Grade B-
  • Round 7 (247th overall) – Chris Williamson, CB, Minnesota, Grade C
  • Round 7 (255th overall) – Tae Crowder, LB, Georgia, Grade C

By snatching up Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas, and later adding Matt Peart, the Giants made good on their intention to protect Jones. Then they bolstered their defense by picking versatile Alabama safety Xavier McKinney, and backing it up with the naturally aggressive style of defensive playmaker Darnay Holmes.

Low-key but solid is the verdict, for which Gettleman earns a low-key but solid B. 

7. Las Vegas Raiders: C+

The Covid-19 lockdown meant that Las Vegas lost out on the chance to host the 2020 NFL draft, but head coach John Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock seemed to be in a mood to gamble all the same, judging by draft results that earn them a risky-but-interesting C+.

In the end this tactic produced a 2020 Draft class that lines up like this:

  • Round 1 (12th overall) – Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama, Grade A
  • Round 1 (19th overall) – Damon Arnette, CB, Ohio State, Grade C+
  • Round 3 (80th overall) – Lynn Bowden Jr., RB/WR, Kentucky, Grade B+
  • Round 3 (81st overall) – Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina, Grade B+
  • Round 4 (100th overall) – Tanner Muse, S, Clemson, Grade C-
  • Round 4 (109th overall) – John Simpson, G, Clemson, Grade B
  • Round 4 (139th overall) – Amik Robertson, CB, Louisiana Tech, Grade B+

Gruden and Mayock’s best bet may turn out to be Henry Ruggs III at wide receiver, a gritty player with impressive lateral agility and real game-breaking potential. Add to this the versatility of a tough smart player like Lynn Bowden plus a dynamic playmaker like Bryan Edwards (well on his way to a 1,000 yard 2019 season before he was tripped up by a foot injury), and the Raiders offense could well take a leap in 2020.

Raiders also gambled on linebackers Damon Arnette, a surprising first-round selection, undersized but feisty Amik Robertson and Clemson’s athletic Tanner Muse.

After bringing in 11 players via free agency in the off season and adding seven more through the 2020 NFL Draft, it remains to be seen how the chips will fall in Sin City.  

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