By Alex Kurpeski and Angel Maldonado Tejada
Hindsight is 20/20. Last April, we mocked the Giants mercilessly for their selection of Wonder Bread model Daniel Jones in the top ten, while praising the Washington Redskins for selecting OSU signal-caller Dwayne Haskins. While Jones had a very decent rookie campaign for the G-Men, Haskins looked very unequipped to lead an NFL offense until the very end of the season. There’s a lesson to be learned here. What that lesson is we have no idea, but here are some of the biggest winners and losers from this year’s draft.
Winner: The Bengals Offense
How do you reinvigorate an offense that averaged a mediocre 17.4 PPG in 2019? Well, adding a record-breaking QB, a fitting understudy for returning (probably?) former Pro Bowler A.J Green, and a top tier young tackle coming off of a medical redshirt rookie year is a great start. With the addition of Heisman Winning passer Joe Burrow, Bengals fans can once again feel a shred of optimism about the team’s QB situation for the first time since the days of Carson Palmer (no offense to ‘The Red Rifle’, but we can agree that we never felt much enthusiasm about him, right?). The decision to induct former Clemson star Tee Higgins into a receiving core that already includes the aforementioned Green and steady chain-mover Tyler Boyd should make Burrow’s adjustment to the NFL a bit smoother, while Joe Mixon (assuming his potential holdout doesn’t lead to a trade) should return to his 2018 form that saw him average 4.9 yards per-carry. With 2019 first-rounder Jonah Williams expected to rejoin the team after missing his rookie campaign with a torn labrum, the Bengals abysmal offensive line (a unit that ranked 30th in the league last season according to Pro Football Focus) should be able to keep Burrow upright a bit more often than it could for Andy Dalton and Ryan Finley last season. If everything goes according to plan, Cincinnati’s offense should make some major leaps forward in 2020.
Loser: Quarterbacks named Jake
Leading up to the Draft, the 2020 quarterback class was made out to be an extremely deep group, with up to 6 passers once projected to be first-round picks. Two of those names in the first round conversation were Georgia QB Jake Fromm and the man he replaced as the Bulldogs starter, Jacob Eason. Unfortunately for Eason and Fromm, they did little to help their draft stocks between the combine and the draft, as both found themselves waiting until day 3 of the draft to be selected. While Eason will have a nice opportunity to learn and grow under future Hall of Famer Philip Rivers in Indianapolis (that sounds strange doesn’t it?), Fromm will be called upon to backup 2018 first-round pick Josh Allen in Buffalo. Considering both Fromm and Eason were once ranked as the 2nd and 3rd best passers in this class at one point, their ultimate draft day fates are pretty disappointing. Hopefully these Jakes can take the lemons they’ve been given and turn them into decent NFL careers. After all, it’s not how you start, it’s all about how you finish.
Winner: The Wide Receiver position
Loser: D’Andre Swift
With Swift sized holes at the RB spot in both Tampa Bay (where he could play with checkdown specialist Tom Brady) and Kansas City (the attention defenses pay to Patrick Mahomes essentially eliminates the possibility of a stacked box), the former Bulldogs back looked poised to join one of the league’s elite offenses during the pre-draft process. Well, the Chiefs passed on Swift in favor of LSU RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire (a candlepin bowling ball built in the mold of Mark Ingram), allowing him to fall directly into the Lion’s den, literally and figuratively. Despite the presence of 22 year-old running back Kerryon Johnson, the Lions’ brass decided to spend their early second-round selection on Swift, thrusting the dynamic pass-catching back into an extremely complicated time share with Johnson and the other talented backs on Detroit’s roster, not to mention Matt Patricia comes from the Bill Belichick School of RBBC. While Swift’s talents should emerge eventually, Detroit’s recent running back history is a bit worrisome (Johnson, Ameer Abdullah, and Jahvid Best were all once the shiny new toy in the Lions backfield) thus pitting him in an uphill battle that definitely hurts his fantasy stock in the short term.
Winner: Jonathan Taylor
Taylor could not have landed in a more favorable situation. The Colts love the ground-and-pound approach, and Taylor’s entire run with the Badgers was predicated on the offense’s dependence on getting the ball in his hands. With a cast of mediocre backs to compete with, there is no doubt that this is Taylor’s backfield, although he may be relieved on passing downs in favor of Nyheim Hines. Regardless, Taylor should thrive in Indy’s run-heavy offense even if the team employs a committee approach with displaced starter Marlon Mack.
Loser: IDP leagues
There are very few IDP prospects to be excited about from this year’s class, save for Redskins pass-rusher Chase Young (who should excel from day one) and Cardinals do-it-all defender Isaiah Simmons (is he Derwin James or Bobby Wagner? Either way he should be a great pickup for any IDP format). Beyond those two, there are a decent amount of boom-or-bust sleepers, who could take a season or two before they become consistent contributors. While the offensive side of the ball should be filled with day one fantasy contributors, IDP leagues will have to rely on veterans in 2020.
Winner: Drew Lock
No quarterback left draft weekend with more reason to smile than Drew Lock. Entering in with Courtland Sutton and Noah Fant as the team’s only game-breaking receiving options, GM John Elway made it his mission to surround Lock with as much talent as possible. With the addition of polished route-runner Jerry Jeudy, speedy slot receiver K.J Hamler, and uber-athletic tight end Albert Okwuebunam to an offense that already featured Sutton and Fant as well as Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay providing a gnarly one-two out of the backfield, Elway has made life much easier for his second-year QB. It’s clear that the Broncos draft strategy was all about Lock and putting him in the best position to succeed, so it will now be Lock’s job to utilize these resources appropriately.
Bonus Biggest Loser: Packers Fans
While much of this article is up for debate, it’s clear that the biggest loser from this year’s draft is the Packers fanbase. While many expected the team to load up on receiving talent (after relying on the likes of Jake Kumerow, Marquz Valdes-Scantling, and Allen Lazard last season), Green Bay’s braintrust had other ideas, spending premium draft capital on players like Jordan Love (apparently the successor to Aaron Rodgers) and A.J Dillon (a non-pass catching back to sit behind Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams). The shocking decision to draft Love, a strong-armed developmental QB prospect out of Utah State, certainly sends a message about Rodgers’ future with the team. While it may be two or three years down the line, it’s clear that Green Bay’s future does not have the future first-ballot Hall of Famer in it. Bypassing the opportunity to select a receiver from this historically deep class could land the 2020 Green Bay Packers on the wrong side of history, especially if Love flails as the team’s starter when his time comes. Considering the team came just one win away from the Super Bowl in 2019, it is surely disappointing for fans to see the front office look towards the distant future rather than doing everything they can to compete for a title in 2020.
Who do you think the biggest loser in the 2020 NFL Draft was? Let us know in the comments and follow us on Twitter for more great 2020 NFL content.