From the Bleachers: NFL draft exciting yet predictable

by Baily Deeter | 5/5/20 2:00am

by Sophie Bailey / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

The NFL draft is usually wildly unpredictable, so I elected to be bold with my pre-draft predictions. I asserted that the Miami Dolphins would take Justin Herbert, while Tua Tagovailoa would slide much further than anyone expected.

So, of course, this year’s draft was as predictable as ever. The Dolphins took Tagovailoa. Great!

We all knew the Cincinnati Bengals were going to take their franchise quarterback, Joe Burrow, with the first overall pick. We all knew the Washington Redskins were going to take the draft’s best player, Chase Young, second. We all knew the Oakland Raiders would prioritize speed over everything (Henry Ruggs) and reach for a player they could have traded back to get (Damon Arnette).

But that doesn’t mean this year’s draft was dull. In fact, I found the virtual edition to be arguably the best in league history, and not just because we haven’t seen a sporting event in decades years weeks. Something felt right about seeing players celebrate the greatest day of their lives where it all began — at home — instead of in a crowded, big-city ballroom. And you have to respect Roger Goodell for still finding a way to get booed. Well done, commish.

Three teams found franchise quarterbacks in the first round, and another one mistakenly thinks they did (we’ll get to you later, Green Bay). Burrow went first overall, and the Bengals gave him a gift in the second round by picking Clemson University receiver Tee Higgins, one of my top wideouts in the class. 

Tyler Boyd, A.J. Green, Higgins and John Ross make up a stellar group of pass-catchers for the rookie gunslinger. Don’t be surprised if the Bengals — playoff regulars just a few years ago — are still playing into next January.

The Dolphins picked Tua Tagovailoa fifth overall — a move that surprised me due to his injury history. Tua has pinpoint accuracy on short to intermediate throws, but I’m curious to see how he holds up without four first-round picks at wide receiver and top-tier offensive line talent. He’s the second-best quarterback in the class, but Dolphins fans who want a Dan Marino 2.0 may want to temper expectations.

Los Angeles Chargers fans fan may want to do the same with Justin Herbert. Herbert holds onto the ball too long and was wildly inconsistent throughout his college career. He was the best quarterback available, but I’m surprised the Chargers didn’t take Isaiah Simmons and hand Tyrod Taylor the keys to the Ferrari (or maybe the Toyota Corolla).

There was a huge drop-off at the quarterback position after that, but that didn’t stop the Green Bay Packers from trading up for Utah State University’s Jordan Love.  

Love has been compared to Patrick Mahomes because he has a strong arm and occasionally makes great plays, but really it’s because any quarterback who shows any flash of greatness is now automatically compared to Mahomes.  

It would have been a fine pick if the Packers didn’t already have a guy who we know can do anything Love can do and more. But let’s face it: Aaron Rodgers still has plenty left in the tank. The Packers also don’t have a capable second receiver and could have easily selected one (Higgins or Michael Pittman, perhaps) instead of Love.

Overall, it was an atrocious draft for the Packers, who failed to provide their undermanned quarterback with immediate help. Rodgers is still under contract for the next four years, so it will be interesting to see if Green Bay decides to part ways with its aging signal-caller at some point. 

As for the rest of the first round, receivers and tackles were well represented in the top 25. Offensive tackles Andrew Thomas (fourth overall), Jedrick Wills (10th overall), Mekhi Becton (11th overall) and Tristan Wirfs (13th overall) all went early. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the Wirfs sweepstakes, finding its franchise tackle to protect Tom Brady. 

The deepest position group was probably the wide receivers, although many of the top prospects fell farther than expected.  

The benefactors were my Denver Broncos and the Dallas Cowboys, who snared Jerry Jeudy and CeeDee Lamb, respectively, with the 15th and 17th overall picks. Pro Football Focus ranked Jeudy fifth on its big board and compared him to Odell Beckham Jr., and it ranked Lamb sixth while comparing him to DeAndre Hopkins. Denver, who also got Pennsylvania State University speedster K.J. Hamler in the second round, has an exciting new group of weapons for Drew Lock. Dallas also filled a number of key spots throughout the draft. 

The Philadelphia Eagles must have been close to holding open tryouts at receiver with all the injuries it dealt with last season, but it added a weapon for Carson Wentz by picking Texas Christian University’s Jalen Reagor at pick 21. Many thought the Eagles would add a second receiver in the next round, but they instead opted to take University of Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Many have compared Hurts to Taysom Hill because any moderately athletic backup quarterback is now automatically compared to the Saints' Swiss Army knife. But with Wentz’s injury history, Hurts may have to do more than run a draw once or twice per game. He's worth keeping an eye on.

The Minnesota Vikings replaced Stefon Diggs with Louisiana State University’s Justin Jefferson, and the San Francisco 49ers replaced Emmanuel Sanders with Arizona State University’s Brandon Aiyuk. A lot of other players were picked, but you can’t start a cornerback or a defensive lineman on your fantasy team, so why even mention that the Detroit Lions picked Jeff Okudah third or that the Carolina Panthers picked Derrick Brown seventh?

I did play linebacker in high school, so I’ll shout out Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons for being picked eighth by the Arizona Cardinals. Simmons may be a bigger, better, faster and stronger linebacker than me, but did his team have the highest cumulative grade point average in the section? Probably not.

This year’s draft was exciting, but next year’s has the potential to be even more so. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence may well be one of the best quarterback prospects we’ve ever seen, and the likes of Ohio State University’s Justin Fields, North Dakota State University's Trey Lance and the University of Georgia’s Jamie Newman may find themselves picked in next year’s top 10.

The wide receivers in this year’s class were phenomenal, but next year’s group could boast more starpower. LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase was unbelievable last season, and if he can still produce without Burrow, he could be a candidate to go in the top five. Alabama has two more likely first-round receivers in DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. Maybe the Dolphins can pick one so Tua feels like he’s at Alabama again.

As crazy as it may seem, we have a lot to look forward to, especially if the 2020 NFL season takes place as scheduled. Will Tom Brady be as effective in Tampa Bay? Will New England really start Jarrett Stidham at quarterback? Will my friend Brendan finally do his fantasy football punishment from last season? We’ll find out soon.