Look out, Canton. Your Hall of Fame might be overrun by the NFL’s rookie class of 2020.
It seems the initial tsunami of team-by-team draft grades delivers much good news from Roger Goodell’s Bronxville basement.
NFL.com handed out 20 A’s, 11 B’s and one C-plus dunce cap for a Packers team that passed on all 36 receivers drafted.
Pro Football Focus crunched its numbers and awarded 13 A’s, 12 B’s, six C’s and a D to a Packers team so shamed in April that it will probably win it all in February.
The 2020 NFL draft was quite the all-virtual experience. The league and its television folks pulled off something special during a global pandemic while raising $100 million to fight that global pandemic.
That deserves an uncontested A-plus from even the most weathered cynic.
As for handing out team-by-team grades, nah. Give everyone an incomplete. Then check back in four years.
Let’s instead divide some thoughts into three categories: “Liked,” “Disliked” and “Keeping an eye on.”
• Eight receivers were taken in the first 34 picks. Not one of them better than what Arizona got when it stole DeAndre Hopkins from Houston for the 40th overall pick. Arizona has had a good spring. Also liked the Cardinals getting Houston tackle Josh Jones in the third round.
• The Ravens have transitioned so well from Ozzie Newsome to Eric DeCosta the past two years. Baltimore had a league-high four third-rounders, all of whom could shine. Undersized Texas A&M defensive tackle Justin Madubuike has drawn comparisons to John Randle. There’ll never be another Johnny, but keep an eye on this kid.
• Carolina gave up a franchise-record 29.4 points per game last year. How did General Manager Marty Hurney and coach Matt Rhule respond? After helping the offense in free agency, they drafted only defensive players, a first since the common-draft era began in 1967. Keep an eye on Jeremy Chinn, the small-school hybrid safety/linebacker from Southern Illinois. In today’s NFL, it’s no longer a bad thing to be a “tweener.” The Panthers traded picks in the third and fourth round to move up and pick Chinn at the end of the second round.
• There are too many worst-to-first NFL stories to predict with any certainty that the 49ers will stay atop the NFC. But hats off to San Francisco GM John Lynch for filling his only three needs — defensive tackle, receiver and left tackle — with two first-round picks and a trade for veteran left tackle Trent Williams. Defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw at No. 14 after trading down was especially impressive.
• Those of us who were around the Vikings in 2003 had to smile when reading NFL.com call a Vikings fourth-round pick a “steal.” Hard to believe, but it has been 17 years since former fourth-rounder Onterrio Smith hit town calling himself the “S.O.D.” — Steal of the Draft. James Lynch, the 130th overall pick this year, is on this S.O.D. Watch. The team has needed some consistent juice at its three-technique tackle spot for some time now. That is Lynch’s natural position. And he had 13½ sacks last year at Baylor. And, just a heads-up James, this is the last time you ever want to be mentioned in the same paragraph as Onterrio Smith (Google: Original Whizzinator).
• It’s tough to criticize the best coach in NFL history, but 13 quarterbacks were drafted and not a one of them was taken by Bill Belichick. In the 20 years he had Tom Brady, he routinely drafted quarterbacks. In his first year with Jarrett Stidham as the presumptive starter, he takes none?
• It’s not tough to criticize the Packers right now. They might get the last laugh on taking a quarterback in the first round. But how did they make nine picks and not take a receiver? If the board wasn’t falling right, make a move. A good example: Baltimore’s DeCosta gave the Vikings a fifth-rounder next year to move up in the sixth round to select James Proche, a guy who had 112 catches and 15 touchdowns at Southern Methodist in 2019.
• All the pieces to the Khalil Mack trade have now fallen. The Raiders seemed to have blown a key one by reaching for Ohio State safety Damon Arnette at No. 19. Recapping the key pieces in that trade, the Bears got Mack and 2020 second-round pick Cole Kmet, a tight end. The Raiders got first-rounders Josh Jacobs (2019) and Arnette (2020), and 2020 third-round pick Bryan Edwards, a receiver from South Carolina.
Keeping an eye on
• Who ultimately wins the Stefon Diggs trade will be fun to watch over the coming years. Especially since the Vikings used the first-round pick they got from Diggs to replace Diggs with LSU’s Justin Jefferson.
Through a whirlwind of additional trading, here’s where the trade now stands:
The Bills got Diggs and Dane Jackson, a seventh-round cornerback from Pittsburgh. They are done.
The Vikings got Jefferson, the Bills’ fourth-round pick in 2021, the Bears’ fourth-round pick in 2021, the Ravens’ fifth-round pick in 2021 and Kenny Willekes, a seventh-round defensive end from Michigan State.
Mark Craig is an NFL and Vikings Insider. Twitter: @markcraigNFL. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org