With the first three rounds of the 2020 NFL draft complete, there are several evident lessons for teams and players throughout the league.
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First-round picks typically shape the public perception of the NFL draft, but rosters can be built — or broken — by Day 2 selections.
The second and third rounds of this year’s event are complete, and many of the moves had an immediate fallout. In some cases, teams addressed a previous weakness or continued to build on a strength. Yet in others, franchises ignored a shortcoming or otherwise invested in a questionable fashion. And many of the choices left rookies or veterans in a precarious position.
Here are our winners and losers from the second and third rounds of the 2020 NFL draft:
NFL DRAFT TRACKER: Analysis on Day 2 picks
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Browns: Quite the sea change in Cleveland, where GM Andrew Berry is assembling a class short on hype but long on potential impact. After securing an anchor for the offensive line with Alabama’s Jedrick Wills Jr. in the first round, the Browns grabbed another premier talent in LSU safety Grant Delpit. The Jim Thorpe Award winner should join former teammate Greedy Williams, a 2019 second-rounder, in upgrading Cleveland’s coverage capabilities, though he has to iron out some tackling issues. Missouri defensive tackle Jordan Elliott, a third-round choice, could become a promising interior presence with some refinement. The Browns also added a fifth-rounder and a 2021 third-rounder and a fifth rounder this year in two trades back.
Drew Lock: The Broncos are building quite the supporting cast for their second-year quarterback. Picking Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy at No. 15 on Thursday provided Lock with a necessary field-stretching complement to Courtland Sutton, and the effort to ramp up the explosiveness continued Friday with the selection of Penn State wide receiver KJ Hamler. The 5-9, 178-pound speedster can be a prolific deep threat and run-after-catch specialist if he can adjust to a more physical style of play in the NFL. LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry is solid if unspectacular, but the line could use more players like that.
Jets: GM Joe Douglas’ first draft is going gangbusters for Gang Green. Continuing the theme of aiding Sam Darnold after drafting Louisville offensive tackle Mekhi Becton in the first round, Douglas snared a potential No. 1 wide receiver in Baylor’s Denzel Mims in the second. The 6-3, 207-pound target still has to refine his approach to thrive as a rookie, but he and Darnold can become a dangerous duo. Cal safety Ashtyn Davis is a fitting sidekick to Jamal Adams thanks to his coverage range, and Florida edge rusher Jabari Zuniga can help ramp up the pressure on opposing passers.
Kyle Dugger: As a hybrid safety/linebacker, the 6-1, 217-pound Division II defender’s skill set wasn’t going to align with every team, so finding the proper fit was critical to his future success. Dugger found the perfect landing spot in New England, where Bill Belichick will help him translate his versatility and athleticism into what could be a promising career.
Philip Rivers: The Colts’ new quarterback already had T.Y. Hilton in tow as his go-to target. In USC’s Michael Pittman Jr., however, Rivers now has a sturdy possession receiver who can bail him out on jump balls. Pittman’s best role in the NFL looks to be as a high-level No. 2 option, which is exactly what he’s poised to be in Indianapolis.
Cowboys: Credit Jerry Jones for knowing to strike when an impressive prospect falls in his lap. That’s exactly what the Cowboys’ shot-caller did Thursday in scooping up Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, and he did the same Friday in securing Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs, who wouldn’t have been out of place had he been the team’s first-round pick. Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore was worth the third-round flier as a developmental prospect capable of crashing the pocket.
Dave Gettleman: The Giants GM typically is an easy target around this time of year given his old-school mentality toward drafting, but he seems to be putting together a solid class. Alabama safety Xavier McKinney is well-rounded and reliable, making him a solid candidate to take on a substantial role as a rookie. Third-round offensive tackle Matt Peart offers substantial upside if he can harness his athletic tools.
Running backs: LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire was the only ball-carrier to sneak into Day 1 of the draft, but five were selected in the second round. Though lucrative second contracts might still prove elusive for many of those chosen, several will have the opportunity to serve in key roles in 2020.
Jarrett Stidham: If the Patriots were serious about bringing on a rookie challenger to the 2019 fourth-round quarterback, they would have done so by now. Instead, Belichick invested in five Day 2 picks in a different fashion. Hard to say whether that’s a vote of confidence for Stidham or merely disinterest in this year’s crop of passers, but now — barring the acquisition of a veteran signal-caller — Brian Hoyer looks like the only impediment for the Auburn product as he tries to become Tom Brady’s surprising successor.
Jalen Hurts: Yes, he landed with a creative coach in Doug Pederson who could help him grow as a quarterback … if not for the presence of Carson Wentz, to whom general manager Howie Roseman said the team remained committed. Playing a Taysom Hill role might be a worst-case scenario for the Oklahoma star and former Heisman Trophy runner-up, as he wouldn’t receive the reps necessary for him to improve his anticipation as a passer. Even if he is given a chance to back up and eventually challenge Wentz, there were other teams with veteran passers that could have presented a cleaner line of succession.
Rams: Even with that uniform redesign ahead, Los Angeles can’t change its stripes. Despite having 2019 third-round running back Darrell Henderson to pick up the pieces after the Todd Gurley debacle, the Rams used their first choice of this year (No. 52 overall) on Florida State’s Cam Akers. GM Les Snead compounded the problem five selections by taking Florida wide receiver Van Jefferson, who joins a pass-catching crew that already boasts Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp and Josh Reynolds in addition to tight ends Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett — all 28 or under. Akers and Jefferson are fine players, but they’re luxuries for a team short on draft capital and in need of cheap solutions elsewhere.
Jacob Eason + Jake Fromm: The two quarterbacks, who both declared early, haven’t had their names called through three rounds. For the 6-6, 231-pound Eason, his impressive size and arm strength might not be enough to erase concerns about his processing and pocket poise. Fromm faces a much different issue, as his physical limitations could hold him back from being more than a backup. At this point, each will have a difficult time reaching starter status.
Marlon Mack: Fresh off a breakout campaign in which he tallied 1,091 rushing yards, the Colts running back now has to compete with second-round pick Jonathan Taylor, the prolific ball-carrier from Wisconsin. Rough outlook for a player entering a contract year.
Seahawks: Pete Carroll and John Schneider clearly aren’t afraid to go their own way in the draft. Taking Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks in the first round confounded many fans, and trading up to take Tennessee’s Darrell Taylor at the No. 48 slot seemed like a questionable route for addressing the pass rush. At least LSU offensive guard Damien Lewis was an appropriate addition in the third round.
Aaron Rodgers: This probably isn’t what the two-time MVP had in mind when he said he was looking forward to an investment in skill-position players. The Packers used Day 2 to bring on Boston College’s AJ Dillon, a hard-charging running back who’s limited in the passing game, and Cincinnati’s Josiah Deguara, essentially an H-back. In a class known for its depth at receiver, the Packers thus far have stood pat … and instead selected Rodgers’ potential heir with their top pick.
Follow Michael Middlehurst-Schwartz on Twitter @MikeMSchwartz.
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