NFL Draft winners & losers 2020: Vikings, Steelers, Cowboys impress; Packers, Eagles confuse

Sporting News

The 2020 NFL Draft is complete. It was full of twists and turns, but it was successful given that the format was altered by the outbreak of COVID-19 in the United States.

Cincinnati and Miami landed their franchise quarterbacks in Joe Burrow and Tua Tagovailoa, respectively, early in the first round. Green Bay surprised by taking Utah State QB Jordan Love on Day 1.

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Only one quarterback — Jalen Hurts to Philadelphia at No. 53 overall — came off the board on Day 2. That sent Georgia's Jake Fromm and Washington's Jacob Eason plummeting into Saturday without a phone call. Those quarterbacks were picked up on Day 3 as teams finished beefing up their rosters.

So which teams and players came out as winners and losers in the 2020 NFL Draft? Sporting News broke down that question as the three-day event unfolded. Here are the biggest takeaways from all seven rounds:

NFL Draft winners & losers 2020

Rounds 4-7

Winner: Vikings' defense

Minnesota had a high-yield draft that featured 13 Day 3 picks. The Vikings added two solid defensive linemen in the fourth round: Baylor's James Lynch and South Carolina's D.J. Wonnum. They stayed on defense with Oregon linebacker Troy Dye and Temple corner Harrison Hand in the fifth round. Minnesota had one of the more well-rounded drafts thus year, complete with Day 3 value.

Winner: Jacob Eason's development

Eason is a live-armed quarterback who had an up-and-down career at Georgia and Washington marked by struggles with accuracy. Eason was selected in the fourth round and should benefit from learning under coach Frank Reich and new Indianapolis QB Philip Rivers. This is an opportunity for Eason to grow and perhaps be a starter down the line.

Loser: Jake Fromm's draft stock

Fromm was a big-game quarterback at Georgia but he slipped to the fifth round, where he landed with Buffalo. He was projected to be a much higher pick for most of his collegiate career. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll was at Alabama when the Crimson Tide played Georgia in the College Football Playoff championship game, so there's a little familiarity. Fromm should be a suitable backup to Josh Allen as he attempts to make the most of the slide.

Winner: Steelers' offense

Pittsburgh continued a solid draft with Day 3 value picks. Anthony McFarland Jr. averaged 6.7 yards per carry with Maryland and should be able to work into the running back rotation. Louisiana guard Kevin Dotson could be a starter as the offense undergoes a youth movement.

Winner: Michigan

The Wolverines sent 10 players to the NFL this year. Receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones could be a sleeper in Cleveland. On the down side, eight of those picks were made on the third day, and the highest pick Saturday was guard Ben Bredeson (Baltimore) in the fourth round. Jim Harbaugh continues to develop next-level talent; now, he needs to deliver more first-round talent to catch up with the other elite college producers.

MORE: Draft picks by school, conference

Loser: Eno Benjamin

Benjamin had a fantastic career at Arizona State as a tough inside runner (2,867 rushing yards and 27 TDs), but he slipped to the seventh round. He'll stay in Arizona with the Cardinals, where he will get an opportunity to make the roster. Another year with Herm Edwards in Tempe might have been more beneficial to him, however.

Rounds 2-3

Winner: Colts' offense

Indianapolis already added Philip Rivers via free agency, and they added USC receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor in the second round.

Pittman had 101 catches for 1,275 yards and 11 TDs for the Trojans last season and provides another reliable target in the passing game. Taylor had a better all-around performance at the NFL Combine than former Badgers running back Melvin Gordon, who was Rivers' teammate in Los Angeles. Indianapolis added that to an offense that already features a 1,000-yard rusher in Marlon Mack. The Colts' offensive line is a strength. The team could improve on last year's average of 4.5 yards per carry.

Winner: Ravens’ offense

Lamar Jackson got more help in the form of second-round pick J.K. Dobbins, who ranks second all time in rushing yards at Ohio State. Dobbins should be an excellent tag-team back with Mark Ingram. Baltimore doubled down with Texas receiver Devin Duvernay, who had 1,386 yards and 10 TDs last season, in the third round. He has the goods to be an excellent possession receiver.

That adds two more weapons for the offense who can fit as complementary pieces for the defending NFL MVP. Dobbins and Duvernay should able to contribute right away.

Loser: Bears with way too many tight ends

Chicago drafted Cole Kmet in the second round, and the former Notre Dame star is not a bad pick. The problem is Chicago already has nine other tight ends on the roster, including veteran Jimmy Graham.

Kmet likely will emerge as the next solid tight end off the Irish pipeline, and perhaps he's a safety valve for Nick Foles or Mitchell Trubisky. It's just that Chicago could have gone in other directions here.

Winner: Pittsburgh's second-round steal

The Steelers didn't have a first-round pick because of the Minkah Fitzpatrick trade, but they picked up a steal in the second round with Notre Dame receiver Chase Claypool at No. 49.

Claypool enjoyed one of the most dominant performances at the NFL Combine, and he gives Ben Roethlisberger a versatile target. Claypool could emerge as that hybrid receiver-tight end player in Pittsburgh, and offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner will find creative ways to get him the football.

BENDER: What is the Eagles' plan for Jalen Hurts?

Loser: Philadelphia's QB issue

The Eagles drafted Jalen Hurts in the second round. The Oklahoma quarterback figured to be in that range, but he won't be more than a backup behind Carson Wentz.

Wentz has missed eight starts in four seasons, and it never hurts to have depth at the position. Philadelphia, however, didn't have to reach here for a backup quarterback. That could have waited until Day 3.

Winner: Sleeper running backs

The second round featured five running backs, starting with D'Andre Swift to Detroit. Indianapolis grabbed Taylor next. The Rams took Cam Akers, Baltimore got Dobbins and Green Bay added A.J. Dillon.

These are the middle-round rookies who can make a fantasy draft.

Losers: Jake Fromm and Jacob Eason

Fromm and Eason were not selected on Day 2, which was a bit of a surprise considering Hurts was the only quarterback selected in either Round 2 or Round 3.

Both quarterbacks played at Georgia, though Eason closed his career with Washington over the last three seasons. They seem destined to backup roles as Day 3 quarterbacks, and it will be interesting to see which teams add those experienced quarterbacks.

Round 1

Winners: Bengals and Dolphins get franchise QBs

Two franchises in need of franchise quarterbacks got their QBs.

The Bengals landed Burrow, and despite all the pre-draft chatter the pick makes sense for both. Burrow, who is coming off one of the greatest seasons in college football history, stays close to home in a state where he is an icon. Cincinnati, which spent big in free agency, incentivized a real rebuild around second-year coach Zac Taylor. This doesn't feel like Carson Palmer in 2005. Burrow should be put in a better chance to succeed. He is that kind of game changer. The “740” T-shirt was a nice touch.

Miami made the risk-reward pick by taking Tagovailoa at No. 5 pick, and he fills a need at quarterback. Tagovailoa's talent at Alabama was undeniable, but he comes with injury concerns after a season-ending hip injury. In the end, second-year coach Brian Flores gets a franchise quarterback he can build around.

Burrow and Tagovailoa clashed in the No. 1-vs.-No. 2 showdown between LSU and Alabama last season. It will be interesting to watch both grow with their new franchises. They were the two best quarterbacks on the board, and the Bengals and Dolphins made the right calls.

Loser: Packers QB plan

Aaron Rodgers is 36, and back in 2005 he slipped to the No. 24 in the NFL Draft. The Packers surprised on Thursday night by taking Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in the first round at No. 26.

Cue the Favre-like drama, right?

Green Bay passed on Clemson receiver Tee Higgins and Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet, which were more pressing positional needs for a team whose window to get back to the Super Bowl re-opened in Matt LaFleur’s first season.

Green Bay could have made this move in at least two years considering Rodgers is under contract through 2023. It was too soon to create that drama.

BENDER: Packers put unnecessary pressure on Aaron Rodgers with Jordan Love pick

Winner: Broncos and Cowboys WRs

The Broncos were looking to trade up to grab a receiver, and GM John Elway didn't have to. Denver landed Jerry Jeudy, a Biletnikoff Award winner and game-breaking receiver from Alabama.

Jeudy was one of the best players in college football the last two seasons. He had 159 catches for 2,742 yards and 26 TDs while averaging 17.2 yards per catch for the Crimson Tide, and he fills a need for Denver. Jeudy should pair well with Courtland Sutton and gives Drew Lock another option in the receiving game.

This was well-executed at the No. 15 spot.

Two picks later, Dallas picked up a big-time receiver in CeeDee Lamb from Oklahoma. Lamb averaged 19.0 yards per catch with the Sooners for his career and is another vertical passing threat that should in well with Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup.

IYER: Cowboys score ultimate spite pick over Eagles with CeeDee Lamb

Loser: Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles needed an upgrade at receiver, and the board didn't fall in their favor with Henry Ruggs III, Lamb and Jeudy flying off the board first.

Philadelphia settled for Jalen Reagor, who proved himself as a playmaker at TCU, but the 5-11, 200-pound receiver wasn't quite as consistent in college as the names drafted ahead of him.

The fact the Eagles missed out on Lamb at Dallas' expense made it even worse.

Winners: Ohio State cornerbacks

The Buckeyes added to their cornerback line by sending two more cornerbacks to the NFL. Jeff Okudah to Detroit at No. 3 was a no-brainer, but the Raiders grabbed Damon Arnette at No. 19.

Ohio State now has sent 15 cornerbacks to the first round since 1991.

Losers: A.J. Epenesa and Big Ten edge rushers

The Iowa defensive end was considered a top-10 pick heading into last season, but a so-so performance at the NFL Combine led to a slide to Day 2. That’s surprising considering the hype around the prospect in mock drafts.

He wasn’t the only Big Ten edge rusher who slipped. Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos and Wisconsin’s Zack Baun also slipped out of the first round.

MORE: The weirdest moments, glitches from the NFL's fully virtual draft

Winner: Tackles

This was a tackle-heavy first round starting with Georgia’s Andrew Thomas at the No. 4 pick to the New York Giants.

Cleveland took Alabama’s Jedrick Wills at No. 10, and the Jets grabbed Louisville’s Mekhi Becton with the next pick. Iowa’s Tristan Wirfs went to the Bucs at No. 13, USC’s Austin Jackson went to Miami at No. 18 and Georgia’s Isaiah Wilson went to Tennessee at No. 29.

That’s six quality tackles on what was a fantastic class at the position.

Losers: Safeties

Alabama’s Xavier McKinney and LSU’s Grant Delpit were two of the best safeties in the SEC the last few seasons, but both fell out of the first round.

They are sure to be among the high-priority Day 2 picks, but it was a bit of a surprise that neither player was taken in the first round. The draft instead was cornerback-heavy, with six players from that position group being selected.

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