Kingsbury steals show, contenders reload in record year for LSU - 20 observations about the 2020 NFL Draft

Omnisport

The first fully virtual NFL Draft could not have been more different from the usual overly choreographed ceremony that sees pro prospects realise their dreams.

And it could not have been more needed.

For three days, the NFL, which faced backlash from some for carrying on with the event amid the coronavirus pandemic, filled the void left by the mass postponement of professional sports around the globe.

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It did so by delivering a genuinely unique experience for fans who watched on to see which players their team would add to the roster.

The 2020 draft will live long in the memory, and here we look at 20 observations as the second biggest event on the NFL calendar went completely remote.

20. Philip Rivers might not be a Colt for long

The keys to the offense of the Indianapolis Colts belong to quarterback Philip Rivers, but general manager Chris Ballard's decision on day three suggests Rivers may be handing them back next year.

Indianapolis drafted Washington quarterback Jacob Eason in the fourth round. With Rivers only signed to a one-year contract, the former Charger could well be asked to mentor a rookie with an incredible arm but questionable decision-making, allowing him to be ready to assume the starting job in 2021.

If that is the case, it may mean retirement is on the horizon for the 38-year-old Rivers next year.

19. Bill Belichick knows his blind spot

Head coach and de facto general manager Bill Belichick did not draft a quarterback or wide receiver for the New England Patriots in their first draft since Tom Brady's departure.

That means either Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer will likely be starting under center in 2020. The decision to draft a receiver is more surprising, given the position was such an obvious weakness last year.

But Belichick picked a receiver in the first round in 2019, Arizona State's N'Keal Harry, and he underwhelmed as a rookie. Belichick has typically struggled to pick receivers in the draft and, despite this being an extremely talented wideout class, he elected not to select one this year. This a man who knows his blind spot.

18. Kliff Kingsbury outdid Jerry Jones

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones made his franchise's picks from his yacht but, in terms of drafting location, he was outdone by Arizona Cardinals head coach Kilff Kingsbury.

The image of Kingsbury leaned back on his sofa in his living room of what some have described as a 'palatial estate' with a view of Camelback Mountain in the background became the talk of social media.

Jones is rarely overshadowed when it comes to opulence but, on this occasion, it was Kingsbury who had the watching NFL world green with envy.

17. Everything, including the offense, is bigger in Texas

Jones and the Cowboys were still among the winners of the draft, with CeeDee Lamb, viewed by many as the best receiver in the class, falling to them with the 17th overall pick.

Oklahoma star Lamb joins a receiving corps that features two wideouts that went for over 1,000 yards in 2019, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.

That is a triumvirate to terrify even the best NFL pass defenses. Dak Prescott led the most productive offense in the league last year and, following Lamb's addition, the Cowboys look primed to improve on their points and yardage totals in 2020.

16. Roger Goodell enjoyed every minute

With the lack of baying fans that would have booed him and cheered picks in equal measure, the onus was on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to provide some of the entertainment factor.

He delivered.

Goodell loved every minute of being centre stage as he announced picks from his basement in Bronxville, New York.

He interacted with the fans selected to show up on screens via video link when a team was on the clock, he absolutely decimated a large jar of M&Ms - and then moved on to cupcakes - and he reflected the sense of weariness that came as the seemingly endless day two dragged on.

Goodell's transformation from smart to smart casual, to exhausted man laying back in what looked a tremendously comfortable armchair, was fascinating to watch.

His only mistake was his continued use of the term 'man cave', but we'll forgive him that.

15. Day two was far too slow

Aided by a lack of trades in the top 10, the first round went by at an efficient pace. The same, however, cannot be said of day two.

Goodell's fatigue was plain to see by the latter stages, with too many breaks in proceedings turning rounds two and three into marathons.

Picks were not announced by the commissioner on day three, ensuring a return to a pleasing pace.

The NFL will likely draw up a list of the changes it can make to future drafts following this unique experience and a way to speed up the second day needs to be included.

14. The Chiefs could be even scarier in 2020

Dallas may have led the league in total offense during the 2019 regular season, but no attack is as devastating in their quick-strike ability as the Chiefs.

They added another weapon to Patrick Mahomes' vast arsenal with the 32nd and final pick of the first round, LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

Edwards-Helaire boasts an exciting blend of power and elusiveness and excelled as a runner and pass-catcher during his collegiate career.

He has drawn comparisons to Brian Westbrook and Maurice Jones-Drew and his receiving abilities make him the perfect back to add even more firepower to the Kansas City offense.

13. Brilliant Baltimore ready to run it back

Every personnel chief leaves the draft feeling they nailed it. Baltimore Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta can be justified in that belief.

Baltimore had a major need at linebacker and got a steal in Patrick Queen with the 28th overall pick. Their acts of daylight robbery kept coming.

From defensive tackle Justin Madubuike and receiver Devin Duvernay in the third round to wideout James Proche and safety Geno Stone in the sixth and seventh round respectively, the Ravens got value across the board.

They suffered a let-down this past postseason with their defeat to the Tennessee Titans, but DeCosta has made additions that should ensure they return to the playoffs.

12. Mike Vrabel has a... interesting home life

Kingsbury may have won the best draft location by a landslide, but Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel had the set-up that provoked the most questions.

Why was somebody wearing a full-body spandex suit? What about the guy with the mullet? Was one of his sons really using the lavatory in the background?

Vrabel at least provided an answer to the last question, insisting that the unexpected draft-day star was simply sat on a stool.

11. Joe Douglas may just make it work in New York

New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas succeeded a predecessor, Mike Maccagnan, who was regularly criticised for his draft record. Douglas' performance in his first attempt with the Jets suggests he could engineer a turnaround.

The Jets finished the draft with an excellent haul, headlined by left tackle Mekhi Becton, whose 6ft 7in, 364lbs frame should provide excellent protection for quarterback Sam Darnold.

Darnold will be delighted to have a wide receiver with the huge catch radius of second-round pick Denzel Mims. Safety Ashtyn Davis and pass rusher Jabari Zuniga are versatile prospects who can immediately contribute on defense.

Running back Lamical Perine has the talent to potentially take Le'Veon Bell's starting job in the future, but the Jets will hope quarterback James Morgan, picked in the fourth round, never has to play a meaningful snap.

Cornerback Bryce Hall has starter potential if he can avoid the injuries that derailed the end of his career at Virginia, and in the fifth round that was a calculated risk by a GM who handled the draft in an astute manner.

10. Eagles & Raiders have need for speed

Fast receivers were the name of the game for the Philadelphia Eagles and Las Vegas Raiders, who each had clear needs at the position.

The Raiders used the 12th overall pick on Henry Ruggs III, who ran the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine in a scorching 4.27 seconds. Las Vegas made further additions at wideout with versatile former quarterback Lynn Bowden Jr. and imposing physical presence Bryan Edwards.

Philadelphia went with another deep threat in Jalen Reagor with their first pick, then doubled down on their need for speed with the selection of Quez Watkins, who was the second-fastest receiver at the combine, and their trade with the San Francisco 49ers for former Olympic long jumper Marquise Goodwin.

Last season, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz did not have the weapons he needed to reach his MVP level of 2017. Philadelphia made moves to ensure that will not be the case again.

9. Henry Ruggs has bathrobe endorsement coming

Had the draft been held on location in Vegas, Ruggs might have dressed for the occasion.

Instead, he sat surrounded by his loved ones in a bathrobe on top of his clothes. A bold fashion choice, but one motivated by a good cause as it was an Old Spice-branded bathrobe worn to draw attention to the firm's $320,000 donation to the United Way charity on behalf of rookies from all 32 teams.

Ruggs made the look work. Any loungewear companies looking for a new spokesperson may soon be casting their eyes in Ruggs' direction.

8. No excuse for Lock not to succeed

The Denver Broncos were clearly impressed by what they saw from 2019 second-round quarterback Drew Lock down the stretch last season.

Broncos general manager John Elway displayed his faith by making a conscious effort to surround Lock with weapons in the draft.

Denver selected a wideout in the first two rounds, taking route-running savant Jerry Jeudy and turbo-charged slot receiver K.J. Hamler.

Athletic tight end Albert Okwuegbunam was added in the fourth round, the trio joining an offense that includes Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay and DaeSean Hamilton.

7. Green Bay's approach is confusing

Perhaps the shocker of the entire draft came when the Green Bay Packers traded up to the 26th overall pick to select Aaron Rodgers' heir apparent, Utah State quarterback Jordan Love.

What made the pick so surprising, other than the decision to trade up for a quarterback with an unconvincing track record at a small school, was that Green Bay entered the draft with a host of more pressing needs, most noticeably at receiver.

The Packers did not address that position at any point in the draft, taking running back A.J. Dillon in the second round, and also did little to address a defense bullied into submission by the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game.

For a team with a quarterback like Rodgers, whose talent can keep them competitive, the Packers' draft plan, or maybe lack thereof, was befuddling.

6. The Bears have nine tight ends

Chicago has indeed taken a unique approach to roster construction and amassed options at tight end.

They had 10 after using their first pick of the draft, which came in the second round, on Notre Dame's Cole Kmet, though have subsequently waived Dax Raymond.

Kmet, an athletically impressive but raw talent, will most likely pair with veteran Jimmy Graham, who has looked way past his best for some time.

Ben Braunecker, Darion Clark, Demetrius Harris, J.P. Holtz, Jesper Horsted, Eric Saubert and Adam Shaheen complete the mammoth depth chart at the position.

The Bears will likely only keep four of that group but, despite the level of investment in the position, it is debatable whether opposing defenses will lose much sleep about any of the players on the list.

5. Lynch keeps Niners on the right path

Niners fans may still be reeling from the fourth-quarter collapse against the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV in February, but they can take comfort in the excellent work being done by general manager John Lynch.

The 49ers only used five picks in the draft, but they masterfully addressed their needs.

San Francisco traded down one spot from pick 13 for defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, filling the need left by the trade of DeForest Buckner, and used the fourth-round selection to move up from 31 to 25 for Brandon Aiyuk, a receiver who replaces the departed Emmanuel Sanders.

The largest stroke of genius came on day three, though, as the 49ers acquired seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams by trading a fifth-round pick and a third-rounder in 2021 to the Washington Redskins.

Williams will step straight in for Joe Staley, with the retirement of the Niners' All-Decade veteran announced shortly after.

The Niners kept the bulk of their Super Bowl team together and expertly used their draft capital to fill the gaps that emerged over the course of the offseason. Like the Chiefs, they are in an excellent spot to contend for a return to the grandest stage of all.

4. The NFC West is a hellscape

The 49ers will be favourites to retain their NFC West title, but they will face an almighty scrap for it in the league's toughest division.

Isaiah Simmons went eighth overall to the Arizona Cardinals, giving them a position-less weapon on defense they hope will match up with San Francisco's superstar tight end George Kittle.

If he can do that and dual-threat quarterback Kyler Murray takes the steps expected alongside All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the Cardinals will be a force.

Russell Wilson can keep the Seattle Seahawks in any game and even a Los Angeles Rams team that could be the worst in the division have two of the top defensive players in the league in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey.

3. Joe Burrow definitely had a haircut

Ahead of the draft, number one overall pick Joe Burrow indicated his hair might not be in the best shape for the cameras in his home.

He posted on Twitter: "Nobody's allowed to make fun of me tonight none of the barbershops are open."

But as the Bengals did the inevitable and selected him to be their new franchise quarterback, Burrow's hair looked very much like it had recently been introduced to some scissors.

The barbershops may be closed, but Burrow seemingly found a way to look his best for the big occasion.

2. 2019 LSU Tigers may be the greatest college team ever

Burrow was the first of 14 members of LSU's National Championship-winning team selected in the 2020 draft.

That tied the record held for the most by a single school in a seven-round draft. Ohio State also had 14 players picked in 2004.

The Buckeyes did not win the national title in 2003, however, begging the question of whether the 2019 Tigers were the greatest college team ever.

With the draft coming on the back of an unbeaten campaign in which LSU swept aside heavyweights Alabama, Oklahoma and beat Clemson and next year's likely first overall pick Trevor Lawrence in the title game, their case is a strong one.

1. Remote draft success will influence the future

The first virtual draft was an unqualified success. There were no major technological glitches and, between GMs making picks alongside their family, Belichick overseeing the Patriots' draft while feeding his dogs, and the emotional scenes of prospects realising their dreams at home, it was a draft with an incredibly human feel.

Worldwide pandemic permitting, the draft will be the show it has long since been next year in Cleveland, then in Vegas in 2022.

Yet the NFL will not want to lose some of the elements that made this draft so special, meaning a balance will need to be struck.

Indeed, the loss of the pageantry was felt, predominantly on the aforementioned day-two slog, but the fascinating snapshot of executives, coaches, and players in their houses was a valuable addition to what can be a largely soulless process.

Team staff will likely return to their draft rooms from next year but perhaps fewer prospects will be asked to attend the glitzy showcase, giving more the chance to enjoy that life-changing moment in the comfort of their home.

Necessity is the mother of invention and, off the back of the drastic last-minute alterations required this year, more permanent changes will come to future events.

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