With the first-round of the 2020 NFL Draft officially in the books, we can all turn toward evaluating how teams got better or somehow found a way to blow obvious picks. While we won’t know how everything turns out until this rookie crop takes the field in August, let’s enjoy the sports content and speculation while we have it. Here are a few awards for some impressive and not so impressive performances by teams in the first-round.
Most Obvious Pick- Joe Burrow QB, Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals reached out to tell Burrow ahead of time that they’d take him with the top selection. Following a season where the team benched Andy Dalton for a few games and showed no signs of finding an identity on offense, everyone knew this pick was coming.
The Bengals stared down a huge credibility loss if they didn’t take Burrow. Even with teams offering them massive hauls of draft picks for the top spot, Cincinnati stood firm.
Best Value Pick- Isaiah Simmons LB, Arizona Cardinals
Simmons fell to eighth overall because of quarterbacks rising into the top six selections and questions regarding his true position. Some teams believe Simmons should play safety while others think he can stay at linebacker. After seeing what the 2019 Dick Butkus Award winner did as a linebacker at Clemson, I think the answer is clear. He’s a linebacker, which fits a position of need for Arizona.
Taking into account his versatility and athleticism, Simmons is arguably the best overall athlete in the 2020 NFL Draft. He’s got speed, range, size, and surprising strength. He’ll be everything Deone Bucannon wasn’t for Arizona.
Most Surprising Pick- Damon Arnette CB, Las Vegas Raiders
Most projections had Arnette falling to at least the bottom half of the second-round. In a lot of drafts, he fell into the third. NFL.com gave Arnette a 6.10 grade on their eight-point scale. That qualifies him as a “GOOD BACKUP WHO COULD BECOME STARTER.” Analyst Lance Zierlein projected Arnette as a second-round pick and compared him to former third-round pick Jourdan Lewis.
Somehow, the Raiders came to a different conclusion than the rest of the football world and took Arnette with the 19th overall pick. The Ohio St. product will line up next to former Clemson Tigers cornerback Trayvon Mullen next season.
Biggest Reach- Damon Arnette CB, Las Vegas Raiders
Again, this pick caught a lot of people by surprise. With LSU’s Kristian Fulton, TCU’s Jeff Gladney, and Alabama’s Trevon Diggs still on the board, the Raiders took Arnette with the 19th overall pick. Maybe they saw something everyone missed. Maybe they outsmarted themselves and will regret this pick in a few months.
If not for the Arnette pick, Seattle’s selection of linebacker Jordyn Brooks with the 27th overall pick would have claimed this award. Ideally, Brooks will work as a 4-3 outside linebacker for Seattle, but LSU’s Patrick Queen was still on the board. Also, linebacker wasn’t one of Seattle’s pressing needs, and Brooks had a second or third-round grade.
Biggest Fall- CeeDee Lamb WR, Dallas Cowboys
While Oklahoma’s star receiver didn’t fall too far down the draft board, he did experience a notable slip. Lamb fell to the Cowboys at 17th overall, but he became the third receiver taken despite earning the position’s top grade. Henry Ruggs III (12th overall) and Jerry Jeudy (15th overall) both jumped Lamb on draft night.
Biggest Steal- Justin Jefferson WR, Minnesota Vikings
Lamb and Dallas earned some looks for this spot, but the Vikings sat at 22nd overall, let Philadelphia take a wide receiver, and still landed LSU’s Justin Jefferson. Jefferson balled out last season and should become an immediate impact player for Minnesota. Besides Lamb, Jefferson is the most well-rounded receiver in the 2020 NFL Draft.
Most Upsetting Pick- Jordan Love QB, Green Bay Packers
The Packers traded up to take the Utah State quarterback with the 26th overall pick. Not only did the Packers trade up for a flawed quarterback prospect, but the team also passed over plenty of talented pass-catchers and running backs to do so. After appearing in the NFC Championship game last season, the Packers should be in win-now mode. Instead, they used extra draft capital on a bad pick and possibly alienated their star quarterback in the process.
Remember how New York Giants fans reacted when the team drafted Daniel Jones last year? Packers fans went through a similar emotional rollercoaster this time.