The 2020 NFL Draft is finally here and there's still plenty we don't know, which is exactly how team executives prefer it. But that won't keep us from making five bold predictions about how the first round could unfold.
Let's get to it.
1. Lions won't be able to trade out of the No. 3 spot
Will a team trade up for Tua Tagovailoa? That's the biggest unknown heading into the draft. It's all but certain that the Bengals will take Joe Burrow first overall and the Redskins will follow by taking Chase Young. But things were supposed to get interesting with the Lions on the clock at No. 3.
As it works out, Detroit has to win now or coach Matt Patricia and general manger Bob Quinn could be looking for work in a year's time, and the quickest way to turn things around is to add as many new faces as possible. And while taking cornerback Jeff Okudah or defensive tackle Derrick Brown third overall would fill big needs on defense, neither player alone will be enough to take the Lions from three-win disappointments to an eight or nine-win outfit.
But here's where things get interesting: Whether it's the just-before-the-draft obfuscating or something closer to reality, there's a scenario in which there isn't much of a market for that No. 3 selection. If the Dolphins have questions about Tagovailoa's medicals -- whether it's the hip injury, the two ankle injuries that preceded it, or his overall durability -- they could choose instead to stay put and draft Justin Herbert at No. 5. And depending on how much the Chargers like Herbert, they could have a good shot of landing him at No. 4, where the Giants currently reside, which lessens any leverage the Lions might have. (Whatever happens, it's important to remember that Herbert will need a year on the bench, so it's not like he'll come in and immediately make a difference on the field.)
There's also the possibility that the Dolphins decide to address the offensive line at No. 5, and perhaps package some combination of picks No. 18, 26 and those two second-rounders to move up and grab a quarterback.
The good news is that even if the Lions are forced to stay put, Okudah and Brown are top-five talents and will improve the defense from Day 1. The bad news, as we stated above, is that Patricia and Quinn don't have time for a reclamation project; they have to win right now, and with fewer picks in this draft that becomes more difficult.
2. A team trades up for a wide receiver
Here's the talking point we've heard since the fall: This draft class is so incredibly deep that teams can find playmakers well into Day 3. And while that is true, there's a difference between the top three wideouts and those ranked 11th to 20th. Knowing that could prompt some WR-needy teams to seriously consider trading up in Round 1.
Here are our top 10 wide receivers in the 2020 NFL Draft:
1. CeeDee Lamb
2. Jerry Jeudy
3. Henry Ruggs
4. Justin Jefferson
5. Denzel Mims
6. Brandon Aiyuk
7. Jalen Reagor
8. Laviska Shenault
9. KJ Hamler
10. Michael Pittman
You can make a case that eight of them could be first-rounders, but many fewer than that are legit No. 1 wide receivers. And that could prompt, say, the Eagles to trade up from No. 21 to take one of them. There's a report that Philly GM Howie Roseman loves Oklahoma's CeeDee Lamb.
I've been told that the #Eagles are aggressively pursuing a trade-up in next Thursday's #NFLDraft2020. CeeDee Lamb is the "apple of his eye" for Howie Roseman. Roseman is "absolutely in love" with Lamb. Hearing if that fails or top 4 WR are gone, PHI will be bailing out of 21.— Joe Tordy (@JoeTordy) April 15, 2020
And since Lamb won't be on the board when the Eagles select two-thirds the way through Round 1, they'll have to move up to get him. CBSSports.com's Cody Benjamin laid out five ways Philly could move up and land a wideout. The takeaway: It won't come cheap but if, say, Lamb, is viewed as a game-changing talent by the Eagles, then it's worth it -- especially given how injuries and inexperience plagued the wide receiver corps down the stretch last season.
3. Fewer than five wide receivers go in first round
Here's the math: There are plenty of teams looking to get better at wide receiver. But as we explained above, there may only be 2-3 No. 1 options in this group. CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy and Henry Ruggs are, in different ways, special talents. But Justin Jefferson is primarily a slot receiver, Denzel Mims and Brandon Aiyuk are raw, Reagor and Hamler are undersized and need to play with more consistency, Shenault has injury concerns, and Pittman does a lot of things well but is probably destined for Round 2.
Put another way: Lamb, Jeudy and Ruggs will go in Round 1, and we wouldn't be surprised if only one other name was called. Because for as much as teams want to get better on the outside, more want to beef up their offensive and/or defensive lines, their secondary and, of course, the quarterback position. And if Lamb, Jeudy or Ruggs are already off the board, the Raiders, Packers or Vikings could look elsewhere in Round 1.
4. Only four offensive tackles go in first round
Every year offensive linemen are overdrafted, and for good reason: The offense comes to a grinding halt if you can't protect the quarterback. Like wide receivers, this offensive tackle class is a deep one, but there's a drop-off after the top four. Jedrick Wills, Tristan Wirfs, Mekhi Becton and Andrew Thomas will all likely start as rookies, but after that, things get interesting.
Josh Jones, Ezra Cleveland, Austin Jackson and Isaiah Wilson are all really good players who also have flaws that could give teams pause when it comes to calling their name among the first 32 picks. Not surprisingly, teams that need offensive tackle help outstrips the supply of those offensive tackles: Giants (No. 4 pick), Dolphins (No. 5, No. 18, No. 26), Chargers (No. 6), Panthers (No. 7), Cardinals (No. 8), Jaguars (No. 9, No. 20), Browns (No. 10), Jets (No. 11), Buccaneers (No. 14) and Broncos (No. 15) -- and that's just the top half of the first round.
But if Wills, Wirfs, Becton and Thomas are off the board, teams -- starting with the Browns at No. 10 -- could be looking to either trade down or take a player higher on their board. Cleveland, for example, might miss out on one of the aforementioned offensive tackles, but have Isaiah Simmons fall to them, and they'd happily scoop him and circle back later in the draft to address the offensive line. Same for the Jets and Broncos, who could focus on a wide receiver while the Panthers and Jaguars could target a defensive lineman or cornerback.
Then there are the Buccaneers ...
5. Buccaneers will trade up for an offensive tackle
We've laid out above how a team picking in the middle of the first round might be out of options when it comes to landing a Day 1 starter at offensive tackle. The most glaring example: the Buccaneers, whose starting quarterback is Tom Brady, who will be 43 years old when the regular season gets underway. As it stands, the Bucs do not have a right tackle on the depth chart after Joe Haeg, the free-agent signing who was above average last season for the Colts but was something less than that during his first three NFL seasons.
If the Bucs are serious about protecting Brady (and we can't imagine they're not), there's a decent chance that the top four offensive lineman are off the board when they go on the clock at No. 14. Ideally, one of those tackles would fall to them and then they could address, in some order, wide receiver and running back with their second and third-round selections. But Tampa may have to give up that second or third-rounder to move up several spots to guarantee they land Wills, Wirfs, Becton or Thomas. If not, the team could focus on, say, getting a defensive tackle (Javon Kinlaw could be there), finding an offensive tackle in Round 2, and taking the best available WR or RB a round after that.