The 2020 NFL Draft is in the rearview mirror and we have some NFL veterans who are smiling at the haul their club was able to pick up. Meanwhile, we have a few others that may be looking in that mirror with a single finger sailing in the air. With every draft, there are winners and losers that range from organizations as a whole and even can be broken down to a single player's situation.
For the purposes of our discussion here, we're taking a dive into which veteran players were helped and hurt by their teams picks at the draft this year. Naturally, we'll be talking a lot about quarterbacks here and one that may not be too pleased with what his team did on a number of levels is Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers, but we'll get to him in due time. We also have a situation in Dallas that is rather polarizing for a couple of players, which we'll discuss even further below.
Helped by the 2020 draft
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are making sure that this Tom Brady stint down in Florida gets off to a hot start. The club didn't dilly-dally in the opening round of the draft and traded up a spot to secure offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs with the No. 13 overall pick. Brady will be 43-years old by the start of next season and Tampa needed to drastically improve upon an offensive line that ranked 23rd in pass protection in 2019. The interior of the line is relatively solid, but needed an upgrade at tackle, which has come in the form of the 6-foot-5, 320-pounder in Wirfs, who graded fourth among all qualifying tackles in his class, according to Pro Football Focus.
Tampa didn't just add another body to protect Brady in 2020, however, as they also gave him a few extra weapons to attack defenses with on top of Chris Godwin, Mike Evans and Rob Gronkowski. In the third-round they selected running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who may be a solid receiver out of the backfield. The also brought in receiver Tyler Johnson out of Minnesota in the fifth. Johnson was extremely productive over the course of his collegiate career and led his team in receptions (86), receiving yards (1,318) and receiving touchdowns (13) in 2019.
The rich get richer in
Tompa Tampa Bay.
While the Andy Dalton signing does add an interesting wrinkle in Dallas' 2020 plans, there's still no reason to believe that Dak Prescott won't be under center when the dust settles and we're kicking off the regular season. I believe both sides will come to an agreement to a long-term extension and Prescott will be a Cowboy for the long haul. With that in mind, Dallas gave the quarterback another stud receiver in the first round in CeeDee Lamb, which only adds to the treasure trove of weapons that features Amari Cooper, Ezekiel Elliott, Michael Gallup (more on him later) and Blake Jarwin.
With those players (and current Texans receiver Randall Cobb) last year, Prescott was statistically one of the best quarterbacks in the league, despite the club's 8-8 record. Lamb now gives Prescott yet another explosive playmaker, who hauled in 62 passes for 1,327 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Sooners last season. What's even more eye-popping is Lamb's 21.4 yards per reception during that campaign.
In what some are already dubbing a coup, Dallas also selected (in the fourth round) center Tyler Biadasz, who is a potential candidate to replace the retired Travis Fredrick as the starter. A new weapon in the passing game and a promising replacement protecting him in the middle of the offensive line should make Prescott extremely happy. Now it's just a matter of inking the new contract.
No one really knows what the future holds for A.J. Green beyond the 2020 season after the Bengals placed the franchise tag on him back in March. If he's healthy and ready to play for Cincinnati in 2020, however, his situation has drastically improved around him following the draft. Not only did the Bengals bring in LSU star Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick to throw him the football, but the club also drafted Clemson receiver Tee Higgins at the start of the second round.
There's no question that Green, when healthy, is the go-to weapon in Cincy's offense. Higgins' presence along with fellow receiver Tyler Boyd and other pass catchers should help keep coverage from drastically shifting towards Green. He'll likely still see a team's No. 1 corner every given week, but because of the wide array of weapons that the Bengals have put together, Green getting doubled may be few and far between. That turn of events along with an uber-talented quarterback throwing him the football should set himself up for success next season and, in turn, put him in position for a lucrative contract if a longer-term deal isn't reached by then.
Similar to Brady and Prescott, Jimmy Garoppolo should be pretty pleased with what the 49ers did at the 2020 draft. In the opening round they selected Javon Kinlaw to replace DeForest Buckner, who they traded to the Colts earlier this offseason, which will maintain the club's elite pass-rushing unit that helped lead them to a Super Bowl appearance last year. Not only did San Francisco improve upon the defense, but they also gave Garoppolo another pass-catching weapon with their second first-rounder in receiver Brandon Aiyuk out of Arizona State. While he wasn't exactly in the Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs and CeeDee Lamb tier, Aiyuk was getting a ton of love throughout the pre-draft process and has all the skills to be an elite receiver in the league. Pairing him alongside fellow receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle makes quite the pass-catching trio for Garoppolo to uncork once 2020 begins.
Oh yeah, San Francisco also pulled off a Day 3 trade with the Washington Redskins that landed them star left tackle Trent Williams. The 31-year-old will immediately jump into the starting left tackle spot for the Niners after longtime tackle Joe Staley announced his retirement. Garoppolo won't miss a beat going from Staley to Williams.
At first glance, you might have thought Vikings receiver Adam Thielen would benefit from the departure of fellow pass cacher Stefon Diggs, who the club traded to the Buffalo Bills prior to the draft. While the targets would certainly have increased for the 29-year-old in 2020, he essentially was set to be the lone receiver on the depth chart as Bisi Johnson and others don't exactly instill the same type of threat that Diggs had on opposing secondaries. That would then shift an entire secondary's attention solely on Thielen, who would constantly be doubled and would have a much more difficult time getting open and clean looks than he did during his days with Diggs on the other side of the field.
With the Vikings selecting Justin Jefferson with the No. 22 overall pick, Thielen will get a new running mate that should help take the pressure off him as they enter the post-Diggs era in the passing game. Jefferson was a star at LSU as they marched to a national championship, catching 111 passes for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns. He should quickly become a favorite target of Kirk Cousins and open things up for Thielen.
Hurt by the 2020 draft
There may not have been a bigger loser at the 2020 draft than Aaron Rodgers. Not only did the Packers neglect to draft a receiver at any point over the three-day period in what was a historically deep class at the position, but Green Bay also decided to spend its first-round pick to bring in Rodgers' potential successor in Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. You can debate whether or not it was wise that the Packers should have taken Love or not (I don't hate making that bold of a move at the quarterback position), but it's almost football malpractice to not give Rodgers another pass-catching weapon at any point in this draft.
Davante Adams was the lone option for Rodgers in the passing game in 2019. His 83 receptions and 997 yards receiving led the team and he only played in 12 contests. The next most productive wide receiver was Allen Lazard, who had 38 caches for 477 yards over a 16 game stretch. It was a clear need and the Packers just punted on it. Adding Love in the first was just salt in the wound.
Despite a strong performance in Kansas City's Super Bowl LIV victory where he rushed for 104 yards, the writing has been on the wall for the Chiefs to look for an upgrade at the running back position over Damien Williams. Andy Reid's club tried to replace him last year with LeSean McCoy, but Shady simply didn't have enough left in the tank to really run away with the job. With the final pick in the first-round, however, the Chiefs decided to bring aboard LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who is a perfect fit to be the team's next feature back.
It's already come out that Andy Reid thinks Edwards-Helaire can be even better than former Eagles great Brian Westbrook, so clearly he thinks he'll be an upgrade over Williams too. It may not happen overnight, but Williams' time in K.C. may be over sooner rather than later.
While Dak Prescott may have been a big winner in the Cowboys selection of CeeDee Lamb in the first-round, fellow receiver Michael Gallup finds himself on the opposite end of the spectrum. After a 2019 season where he caught 66 passes for over 1,100 yards and six touchdowns, Gallup was primed for an even bigger leap in 2020, especially after Randall Cobb and Jason Witten left the franchise earlier this offseason and freed up 166 targets. Now, it appears like Lamb will take the lion's share of those leftover targets and could rival Gallup as Dallas' No. 2 receiver behind Cooper.
In today's NFL, three receivers can coexist perfectly fine and be productive. In the case of Gallup, however, his path to stardom with the Cowboys just got a lot more difficult with a talent like Lamb walking through the door.
For a minute, it looked like the head coach Anthony Lynn and the Los Angeles Chargers were really going to pass on taking a quarterback at the draft and hand over the keys to the offense exclusively to Tyrod Taylor. Throughout the pre-draft process, Lynn was throwing a ton of praise Taylor's way and even said that he was in the driver's seat to start in 2020.
While he still may be the Chargers' Week 1 starter when the 2020 season actually kicks off, his tenure with Los Angeles has an expiration date after the club drafted Oregon's Justin Herbert with the No. 6 overall pick. Taylor is once again the bridesmaid and will once again be booted for a young quarterback, just as the Bills (Josh Allen) and Browns (Baker Mayfield) have done before.
Jimmy Graham is hardly the tight end that he once was during his days with the New Orleans Saints, but the odds of him having any sort of resurgence with the Chicago Bears in 2020 took a big hit when the franchise selected Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet in the second round. Kmet was the clear-cut, top-ranked tight end in this class and he is now added into what is already an extremely crowded unit.
Given the high draft capital that Chicago spent on Kmet, he should jolt up the depth chart and be given every opportunity to surpass Graham for the starting job.