The COVID-19 pandemic might complicate the signing of top NFL Draft picks in 2020
With the 2020 NFL Draft now in the books, it’s time for each player selected to begin the process of readying for the coming season, operating under the same assumption as the league itself in that there will be one. As with all other aspects of the sporting world, however, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is creating hiccups in the offseason goings-on of the NFL. That extends to the signing of each incoming first-year player, an annual process that mostly goes off without a hitch perennially, considering the fact rookies are inked to deals that are often predictable thanks to the rookie wage scale.
Third-round picks are normally the most difficult to sign in a timely manner because of a loophole in the old collective bargaining agreement that allowed them to do more negotiation than even a first-rounder, but the coronavirus pandemic and mandated shelter-in-place orders have players like Joe Burrow — the first-overall selection in this year’s draft — likely opting to hold off on signing deals until seeing the impact the outbreak will have on team revenue and, subsequently, the amount of signing bonuses.
As the weeks roll by, we’ll keep track of who’s officially put pen to paper and who hasn’t, with the expectation they all eventually will. All contracts for first-round picks include a fifth-year option for 2024.
1. Bengals QB Joe Burrow
There could be no doubt Burrow would be the Bengals selection at No. 1, and the Ohio native will now take the reins for a Cincinnati franchise desperately in need of a turnaround, and quickly. All the chips are on the table when it comes to Burrow, but considering he’s coming off of arguably the best season of any player in collegiate football history, it’s safe to say he’s up to the challenge.
2. Redskins EDGE Chase Young
Yes, there were more pressing needs on the Redskins roster, but passing on Young would’ve been a mistake. He’s the best edge rusher in the draft and, from a prospect perspective, one of the most tantalizing to ever enter the draft. His addition takes an already-impressive defensive line to lethal levels.
3. Lions CB Jeff Okudah
Deciding to part ways with Darius Slay meant there was a sizable void to fill at cornerback, and the Lions believe they did just that by grabbing the most polished defensive back in the draft. Okudah brings physicality and a refined game that should flourish at the NFL level, even beyond his eye-popping career at Ohio State.
4. Giants OT Andrew Thomas
with the hopes of helping , and since protection issues did the young QB no favors in his rookie season, selecting an edge protector as talented as Thomas was a no-brainer. The former Bulldog was just that in Georgia — a bulldog, and his energy should resonate well in New York.
5. Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa
The monstrous smokescreen blown onto the pre-draft front by the Dolphins was just that in the end, and the decision to grab Tagovailoa sets them up to be well cared for at the most important position in football for years to come. The former Alabama star isafter suffering a devastating hip injury in 2019, and champing at the bit to get back to the field.
6. Chargers QB Justin Herbert
Speaking of teams deploying smokescreens, the Chargers joined the Dolphins in that regard, consistently proclaiming they’d be just fine opening a new stadium in 2020 with Tyrod Taylor as starter. Instead, they wisely grabbed Herbert as the successor to Philip Rivers, and with that being the case, don’t go buying into their latest claim that it’s somehow a QB competition in Los Angeles.
7. Panthers DL Derrick Brown
There was a ton of elite talent on the board when the Panthers went on the clock with the seventh-overall pick, and considering their needs — particularly at linebacker in the wake of Luke Kuechly’s early retirement — it was a head-scratcher to see them pass on Isaiah Simmons to select Brown. The pressure is now on the rookie to not only produce quickly, but often, because his career is now eternally tied to that of Simmons.
8. Cardinals LB Isaiah Simmons
To be a fly on the wall in Arizona when Simmons fell to eighth would’ve probably been quite enjoyable, considering their disbelief he was still on the board. It was a fortuitous fall that ended in the Cardinals getting the most versatile athlete in the draft, and one who immediately elevates their defense in 2020.
9. Jaguars CB C.J. Henderson
No team can address all of their issues with one pick, but the Jaguars did the wise thing in picking Henderson, who is now tabbed as the successor to a disgruntled and now-traded Jalen Ramsey. Jacksonville needs a shutdown corner, and the highly-coveted former Gator is expected to be just that.
10. Browns OT Jedrick Wills, Jr.
There’s a lot to figure out for the Browns in 2020. Massive changes have been undertaken in the hopes of seeing the team improve, but much of it will be rooted in Baker Mayfield’s ability to bounce back from a disappointing sophomore effort. Wills will help him remain upright and in the pocket, where he can avoid some of the trouble he’s gotten himself in at times.
11. Jets OT Mekhi Becton
With the loss of Robby Anderson in free agency, it was widely believed the Jets would grab one of the top three best receivers in the class, but they instead decided it’s more important to keep Sam Darnold clean to avoid him “seeing ghosts” in 2020. Becton plans to be the team’s resident Pac-Man in that regard, helping to shore up the offensive edge and potentially chomping on said ghosts in the process.
12. Raiders WR Henry Ruggs III
To this point in the draft with all three of the top wide receivers still being available, the Raiders had their pick of the litter. They dug their hand in the cookie jar and pulled out Ruggs, whose speed can blow the lid off of an opposing defense, and add potency to a struggling Raiders passing attack in the process.
13. Buccaneers OT Tristan Wirfs
Tom Brady is in Tampa Bay, and he’s no spring chicken, which means the usually immobile (albeit legendary) QB is that much more so going into his 21st year in the league. The Bucs aren’t naive to this, and that’s why they traded up to grab Wirfs, who should pay off for them well and in short order.
14. 49ers DL Javon Kinlaw
The defensive-minded John Lynch was staring at a void created by the exit of Emmanuel Sanders, but the decision to trade DeForest Buckner to the Colts in exchange for a first-round pick weakened their pass rush. That simply won’t do for Lynch, and that’s why Kinlaw is on his way to San Francisco, where he can do serious damage if he remains healthy and available.
15. Broncos WR Jerry Jeudy
There was a lot of hope within the Broncos organization that at least one of the top three receivers would be available when they went on the clock, but it turns out they got to choose from two of them. Their choice was Jeudy, a stout route-runner who will be an immediate weapon for Drew Lock as the second-year talent seeks to build upon an impressive rookie debut.
16. Falcons CB A.J. Terrell
The era of Desmond Trufant in Atlanta came to an end in 2020, with the team releasing the veteran cornerback, but they’d quickly grab a possible successor in Terrell. The former Clemson star will now be tasked with jumping into the CB1 role, and under instant pressure to perform — with the aid of Keanu Neal patrolling behind him.
17. Cowboys WR CeeDee Lamb
The phrase “embarrassment of riches” is often misused, but not if you’re talking about Lamb still being on the board when the Cowboys — who had zero expectations of him being there — went on the clock with the 17th pick. The best player on their board at this point, the team gave him an excited nod and he joins the No. 1 offense in the league,.
18. Dolphins OT Austin Jackson
With Tagovailoa in tow, the Dolphins executed the next phase of upgrading their offense, and that meant stepping up the protection in front of their shiny, new franchise quarterback. Jackson stands to do well in Miami, and he’ll also enjoy weather quite similar to what he was accustomed to at USC.
19. Raiders CB Damon Arnette
Flipping the coin to the defensive needs on the team, there was an obvious need at cornerback for Las Vegas, but that is presumably no longer the case. Arnette is a hard-nosed defender who will benefit from the safety unit employed by the Raiders, setting him up to operate primarily underneath where his physicality can work in his favor.
20. Jaguars EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson
If Lamb was gone as expected before the Cowboys got the chance to nab him, Chaisson would be heading to Dallas. Instead, he’s heading to Jacksonville to try and boost the team’s pass rush. Chaisson was high on the board of many a team in the first round, so this is a strong pick by a Jaguars team that desperately needs to get back to doing things right.
21. Eagles WR Jalen Reagor
There was some heartbreak involved in the first round for the Eagles, seeing Lamb fall right into the Cowboys’ lap and opting to not trade up to prevent it from happening — additionally knowing they needed an elite wide receiver themselves. They instead sat still and chose Reagor, who leaves North Texas to join the Cowboys’ rival, and is a talent who could surprise many; but he’ll forever be compared to Lamb going forward based on how the draft played out.
22. Vikings WR Justin Jefferson
The run on wide receivers was late to arrive, but arrive it did. With Ruggs, Jeudy, Lamb and Reagor gone, the Vikings landed a replacement for Stefon Diggs as a complement to Adam Thielen. Jefferson enters Minneapolis with a lot of expectations heaped upon his shoulders, but also with the talent to raise some eyebrows.
23. Chargers LB Kenneth Murray
The quarterback of the future having been secured, the Chargers turned their eye to the defensive side of the ball by trading up to take a top linebacker talent. Murray is a player who can be dynamic in the right situation, and head coach Anthony Lynn is willing to bet that situation exists with him and a defense that boasts a stable of strong talent.
24. Saints G Cesar Ruiz
Drew Brees is back but, like Brady, he’s not the young buck he once was. The Saints have always done an exceptional job at protecting their future Hall of Famer, and Ruiz will keep that tradition going in 2020, with the rookie getting a chance to keep a living legend clean.
25. 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk
With his pass rush quench satisfied, Lynch doubled back and traded up to land the wideout they’ll need to replace Emmanuel Sanders in 2020 and beyond. It’s paramount the 49ers give Jimmy Garoppolo as many weapons as possible to not only take the pressure off George Kittle, but to also help the offense bounce back from a heartbreaking loss in Super Bowl LIV.
26. Packers QB Jordan Love
Easily the most controversial move in the NFL Draft belongs to Green Bay, who opted to forego on giving Aaron Rodgers new weapons or a protection piece and instead selected his possible successor after a trade up. Love to the Packers is eerily reminiscent of when Rodgers was selected at the height of Brett Favre’s career, so there’s no doubt Rodgers feels uneasy; now, Love enters a blender hoping to prove he’s got the juice.
27. Seahawks LB Jordyn Brooks
Seahawks general manager John Schneider has become known as a guy who loves to trade back in drafts, but in 2020 he decided against it. He stood his ground to add Brooks to the roster, bolstering a linebacker corps that also includes All-Pro defender Bobby Wagner. It’s a tandem that, on paper, looks like it’ll pay off in solid fashion for Seattle.
28. Ravens LB Patrick Queen
Remember I mentioned the phrase “embarrassment of riches” earlier? Granted, this isn’t the equivalent of Lamb to the Cowboys’ offense, or is it? You could argue adding a talent like Queen to an already dominant Ravens defense puts them at a level difficult to contend with, but they clearly had flashbacks of Derrick Henry mauling them in the playoffs. Queen’s addition can help prevent something like that from occurring again in the future.
29. Titans OT Isaiah Wilson
Awarding a contract extension to Ryan Tannehill and applying the franchise tag to Henry were both smart moves by the Titans, but they knew they could stand to upgrade their offensive line. Despite Henry wrecking the league in 2019 and leading the team to upsets in both New England and Baltimore in the playoffs, their season came to an abrupt end with the Chiefs halted him, and Wilson was brought in with that in mind after the team lost Jack Conklin in free agency.
30. Dolphins CB Noah Igbinoghene
Don’t look now, Patriots‘ ability to continue their winning ways under Bill Belichick, the Dolphins have constructed a defense that could be an absolute terror. Igbinoghene needs polish, but he’s shown flashes, and he joins a secondary that now features both Byron Jones and Xavier Howard — allowing the rookie to learn under two of the best in the league., and for several reasons. Outside of Brady now being gone and, therefore, questions surrounding the
31. Vikings CB Jeff Gladney
The two biggest needs for the Vikings in the 2020 NFL Draft were wide receiver and cornerback, and having addressed the former earlier in the first round, they capped off the round by addressing the latter. Gladney might’ve been overlooked a bit because he played at TCU, but the aggressive Texas-bred corner is a good fit to replace the released Xavier Rhodes.
32. Chiefs RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
It was a coup by the Chiefs to not only figure out how to create cap space this offseason to retain key talent from their Super Bowl run in 2019, but to also keep more than 20 of their in-house free agents on board, freeing them up to have very little need going into the draft. That being the case, they made a mostly luxury pick with Edwards-Helaire, who gives them a solid complement to Damien Williams after parting ways with LeSean McCoy.
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