18 Sep 2020

Home of the NFL Offseason

Draft Rite Staff Consensus Draft Grades: 1st Round Picks

Thursday night, 15.6 million people — almost as many viewers as the average game last season — tuned in for the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Given the current state of reality and the six weeks of sports deprivation leading up, it wouldn’t have taken much excitement to hold the attention of a captive audience of sports fans. But in terms of surprise, intrigue and completely unforeseen developments, the 2020 draft more than delivered.

After 10 minutes of Corona virus foreplay and the first three picks going off as expected, things got interesting — and stayed that way until 32 names were called. In light of so many unexpected picks and the vast spectrum of reactions I saw from our team at Draft Rite and the rest NFL Twitter, I decided to compile grades from all our analysts that gave them to see just how wide-ranging the disparities were and to give consensus grades based on a wider sample. Using the standard A through F 4.0, scale that we all used in high school and/or college, I calculated (Excel calculated) essentially a GPA for every pick.

Contributing Draft Rite Analysts:

Below are the results of all 32, with ranges, indications of the highest, lowest, and widest range of dissenting grades along with analysis for 20 or so of the most intriguing and contentious picks. Agree? Disagree? Valid? Absurd? Let us know what you think about any and all of these grades @DraftRite on Twitter.

First Round

1. Cincinnati Bengals

Joe Burrow, QB (LSU) — A+ (4.2)

Grade Range: A to A+

*Highest Consensus Grade

*Tied for Smallest Range of Grades

2. Washington Redskins

Chase Young, Edge (Ohio State) — A (3.9)

Grade Range: B+ to A+

3. Detroit Lions

Jeff Okudah, CB (Ohio State) — A (4.1)

Grade Range: B+ to A+

*T-2nd Highest Consensus Grade

4. New York Giants

Andrew Thomas, OT (Georgia) — B+ (3.3)

Grade Range: B to A+

Thomas was one of the highest rated tackles in the 2020 class so it wasn’t a total shock to hear his name, but No. 4 was definitely the first debate-sparking pick after the one through three essentially went chalk. The highest grade for the Giants’ taking Thomas (and the loudest voice in the Draft Rite DM’s) came from Erik Hindenberg.

Andrew Thomas is a home run selection and a perfect fit for what Dave Gettleman wants up front. This staff believes in building teams from the inside out and I promise both Daniel Jones and Saquan Barkley are thrilled with the pick. Thomas was my #1 OT and #2 overall player.” –Erik Hindenburg

Check out Erik’s full recap and all his grades from Round 1 here.

5. Miami Dolphins

Tua Tagovailoa, QB (Alabama) — B+ (3.3)

Grade Range: C+ to A

No one can really argue with the Dolphins’ decision, but Tua’s obvious injury concerns kept the pick in the B-range.

6. Los Angeles Chargers

Justin Herbert, QB (Oregon) — C- (1.6)

Grade Range: D- to B+

*T-2nd Widest Range of Grades

Herbert was expected to be the third quarterback off the board and the Chargers’ need for a successor to Philip Rivers made them heavy favorites to take him at No. 6. There’s no question about Herbert’s arm talent, size or athletic ability but whether or not he can develop and improve on the accuracy, decision-making and consistency he showed at Oregon, another story. With grades of D or lower from three of our six analysts and a C- overall, the prevailing answer from Draft Rite is No.

7. Carolina Panthers

Derrick Brown, DT (Auburn) — B- (2.8)

Grade Range: C to A+

Brown was universally regarded as the 2020 best defensive tackle and he fills a major position of need (one of many) on Carolina’s defense. The B- isn’t because there’s doubt that Brown will have a successful NFL career, but more a product of Carolina’s choice to take Brown with Clemson LB still been on the board.

8. Arizona Cardinals

Isaiah Simmons, LB (Clemson) — A (3.9)

Grade Range: B+ to A+

Most mock drafts had Simmons going well before the Cardinals stepped to the proverbial podium. Since he didn’t, Arizona got gem in the top-ten that three of our six analysts graded as an A+ — myself included.

The term “unicorn” gets thrown around a lot in the NBA, but since close to a third of the league’s 30 teams have, it’s lost some of its cachet and accuracy. Unicorn hasn’t been part of the NFL lexicon, but that’s exactly what Isaiah Simmons is. At 6-foot-4, 238 pounds with a 4.39-second 40 and 39-inch vertical, Simmons has the speed and coverage skills of a free safety, instincts and sideline to sideline range as a linebacker, and blend of size and quickness to wreak havoc in the backfield rushing off the edge. In today’s pass-happy NFL with defenses being forced to play nickel more than half the time, there has never been more of a premium on players with the versatility to match-up against any personnel group offenses might use. I’m in the minority, but I rated him as the No. 1 overall player in the 2020 class. Besides the Bengals and Dolphins whose needs at QB superseded everything else, all the teams that passed on Simmons will to look back and regret it.Jeremy Morris

9. Jacksonville Jaguars

C.J. Henderson, CB (Florida) — B- (2.7)

Grade Range: D to A

*2nd Widest Range of Grades among First Round Picks

Henderson was a surprise pick for the Jags at No. 9 but with Jalen Ramsey’s departure via mid-season trade in 2019, Jacksonville’s defense was left with a major hole at corner. I’m got used to seeing grades ranging from A to D during my academic career, but it’s not often there’s such a divide on a top-ten pick. Explanations from both ends of the spectrum:

A Grade from Destin Adams:

“The Jaguars have lost so many defensive play-makers over the past few years — including Jalen Ramsey — so it was crucial that they grabbed a corner who can step in and start right away. They get that and more in Henderson, who can play now and do it at a high level.

D Grade from Erik Hindenburg:

“The Jags take C.J. Henderson, an uber-athletic and talented cover man. I see the upside with Henderson, but I don’t love a football player who legitimately dislikes contact. More risk here to me than most believe. Henderson was my No. 7 corner and he did not make my list of top 50 overall players.

10. Cleveland Browns

Jedrick Wills, OT (Alabama) — A (4.1)

Grade Range: A to A+

*T-2nd Highest Consensus Grade

11. New York Jets

Mekhi Brown, OT (Louisville) — B- (2.7)

Grade Range: C+ to B+

12. Oakland Raiders

Henry Ruggs III, WR (Alabama) — B (3.0)

Grade Range: C to A-

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (via trade from SF)

Tristan Wirfs, OT (Iowa) — B+ (3.5)

Grade Range: C+ to A+

14. San Francisco 49ers (via trade from TB)

Javon Kinlaw, DT (South Carolina) — B+ (3.5)

Grade Range: C- to A

15. Denver Broncos

Jerry Jeudy, WR (Alabama) — A (4.1)

Grade Range: A to A+

*T-2nd Highest Consensus Grade

*Tied for Smallest Range of Grades

16. Atlanta Falcons

A.J. Terrell, CB (Clemson) — C+ (2.4)

Grade Range: C- to A-

The Falcons gave us easily biggest surprise of the top half of the draft with this pick. Collectively, we didn’t have Terrell rated as low as most who based their opinions on his lackluster showing in the National Championship. But with only two corners taken and players like Jeff Gladney and Kristian Fulton, among others still available, this pick was a little confusing.

17. Dallas Cowboys

CeeDee Lamb, WR (Oklahoma) — A (3.9)

Grade Range: B+ to A+

18. Miam Dolphins

Austin Jackson, OT (USC) — C (1.9)

Grade Range: D+ to C+

All agreed that offensive tackle was a smart play for the Dolphins’ front office at No. 18, especially after taking Tua with their first pick. But no one expected that tackle to be Austin Jackson. The Dolphins need more than upside and potential to keep their new franchise quarterback clean.

19. Las Vegas Raiders

Damon Arnette, CB (Ohio State) — D+ (1.3)

Grade Range: C+ to D-

*2nd Lowest Consensus Grade

When we graded on Atlanta’s A.J. Terrell pick as only C+ because of the better options at corner, no one had Damon Arnette’s name in mind. Henry Ruggs III was a surprising pick for Mike Mayock and the Raiders at No. 12 and they certainly had a few head-scratchers in 2019. This one might take the cake though.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars

K’Lavon Chaisson, Edge (LSU) — B (3.1)

Grade Range: C- to A+

*T-2nd Widest Range of Grades

Jacksonville certainly has needs on the edge given what they’ve done so far this off-season (Calais Campbell was sent to Baltimore and Yannick Ngakoue demanding a trade and feuding with Jags VP of Football Operations Tony Khan on Twitter). Chaisson is certainly worthy of the No. 20 pick and in a vacuum, this would be an A. But with two first round picks, the Jags had to add at least one offensive weapon to make Gardner Minshew’s life easier. They obviously did not.

Tanksonville????

21. Philadelphia Eagles

Jalen Reagor, WR (TCU) — B (2.9)

Grade Range: C+ to A-

22. Minnesota Vikings

Justin Jefferson, WR (LSU) — B (3.4)

Grade Range: C+ to A

With Stefon Diggs’s departure to Buffalo, the Vikings needed another receiver to compliment Adam Thielen. Jefferson played primarily in the slot at LSU so he’s not exactly a replacement for Diggs, but he’s capable of playing outside and was just too good of a player to pass — as Connor Lee noted in his recap of the NFC North’s draft:

No, I don’t care that Justin Jefferson basically played in just the slot (Jeudy played over 70% of his snaps in the slot too). I think Jefferson has the combination speed and size to play outside and at the very least, he’ll be a dominant slot weapon. He’s a nuanced route runner, especially in the short to intermediate range and his ability a to go up and get the ball to make catches in tight coverage is as good as anyone in this class. Even though he and Adam Thielen have similarities, they compliment each other well and make a great combination for Kirk Cousins.” –Connor Lee

23. Los Angeles Chargers (via trade with NE)

Kenneth Murray, LB (Oklahoma) — B (2.9)

Grade Range: C+ to B+

The Chargers had a hole at linebacker with Thomas Davis’s departure and moving up to grab Murray late in the first round was a solid move to fill it.

24. New Orleans Saints

Cesar Ruiz, IOL (Michigan) — B (3.0)

Grade Range: C+ to A-

“The Saints make a win-now pick drafting Ruiz out of Michigan. He played both guard and center in college — both at a very high level — so he gives the Saint flexibility and depth upfront. Camp battles will decide where he fits but Ruiz will be an immediate contributor for the Saints as a rookie. Drafting offensive line in the first round isn’t sexy but sometimes a necessity.” –Destin Adams

Check out the rest of Destin’s first round grades here.

25. San Francisco 49ers

Brandon Aiyuk, WR (Arizona St) — C- (1.7)

Grade Range: D- to B+

Surprising choice, but John Lynch and the Niners’ front office haven’t made many bad moves since taking over in 2017 so they’ve earned the benefit of the doubt. I wouldn’t be surprised if Aiyuk well out-performs our middling expectations.

26. Green Bay Packers (via trade with MIA)

Jordan Love, QB (Utah St) — C– (1.8)

Grade Range: F to A

*Widest Range of Grades among First Round Picks

As you might expect, there were some varying opinions on the Packers’ move to trade up and draft Jordan Love while Aaron Rodgers is still firmly entrenched as one of the league’s best quarterbacks.

A Grade from Connor Lee:

Love has all the potential in the world and in Green Bay, he can learn from a smart offensive-minded coach in Matt LaFleur and the most talented QB the NFL has ever seen. He is a plus prospect with the highest potential of any QB in the class. His combination of mobility, elite arm talent, deep ball and throw-on-the-move ability are all second to none and there isn’t a throw he can’t make. He has an air of confidence that’s rare for a young player — almost a miniature Mahomes quality — and made the same kinds of highlight reel plays out of nothing at Utah State. I get that Rodgers can still play and has time left, but securing the next 15 years at quarterback is more important than taking a wide receiver you hope will make an impact.

F Grade from Erik Hindenburg:

I like the position, I like the aggressiveness to trade up and secure their guy, I strongly disagree with the player. Love may have incredible tools and arm talent, but mentally the game moved 99mph playing at Utah State. He’s careless with the football, struggles to place the football on low velocity throws, and his accuracy suffers dramatically if forced off of his first read.

27. Seattle Seahawks

Jordyn Brooks, LB (Texas Tech) — D+ (0.8)

Grade Range: F to C

28. Baltimore Ravens

Patrick Queen, LB (LSU) — A- (3.7)

Grade Range: B to A+

The fourth of five first round picks from LSU, Queen was a great addition to a Ravens’ 3-4 defense that has lost several linebackers to free agency over the last few years. I would have liked to see him in Charlotte or Cincinnati (both nicknamed “the Queen City”) but nickname compatibility is apparently lower on NFL general managers’ list of considerations than on mine.

29. Tennessee Titans

Isaiah Wilson, OT (Georgia) — C+ (2.2)

Grade Range: D- to B-

30. Miami Dolphins

Noah Igbinogher, CB (Auburn) — C+ (2.2)

Grade Range: C- to B-

31. Minnesota Vikings

Jeff Gladney, CB (TCU) — A- (3.8)

Grade Range: B to A+

Three corners that I had graded above Gladney were taken earlier. I’m guessing the Vikings were as surprised (pleasantly) as I was, but they fell into a great pick at a major position of need and rounded out the first round with two big additions.

32. Kansas City Chiefs

Clyde Edwards-Elaire, RB (LSU) — C+ (2.3)

Grade Range: D+ to B+

Edwards-Elaire was a pick no one predicted. I didn’t really expect a running back to go in the first rough but thought if one did, it would be D’Andre Swift or Jonathan Taylor. Although I believe both are better than CEH, I’d bet on him having the best rookie season. He’s in a phenomenal situation with Patrick Mahomes at QB, surrounded by so many weapons and other than Sean Payton, there isn’t a better coach for a pass-catching back than Andy Reid. Ask Brian Westbrook next time you’re in Canton.

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