The first round of the first ever virtual NFL draft is complete; with the usual combination of sure things and question marks when it came to the picks. Let’s take a look at how the first round shook out on Thursday night.
Pick 1: Cincinnati Bengals
The Bengals did what nearly everyone expected them to on Thursday, drafting former-LSU quarterback Joe Burrow with the top overall pick.
Burrow threw 60 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 2019, winning the Heisman Trophy and and leading the Tigers to the College Football Playoff title. At 6’4″, 216 pounds, he has the physical size to accompany his gifted field awareness and team leadership.
As one of the more “sure thing,” prospects in recent history, 2-14 should be a thing of the past for Cincinnati.
Pick 2: Washington Redskins
Like the Bengals, the Redskins did little to surprise anyone; drafting Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young with the second pick of the draft. Despite some talk the Redskins might trade out of the pick, they decided Young showed the most promise as a face of a defense.
In a league where games are often decided through the air, adding a premier pass rusher is another step towards relevance in Washington.
Pick 3: Detroit Lions
Pick three is where things began to get murky for draft experts predicting results; with Burrow and Young near-locks to go first and second.
Okudah is expected to help fill the void left by the trade of veteran Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles; and team officials hope he will contribute right away. With good speed and solid size he should be a tough matchup for wide receivers for many years to come.
The selection also marks a historic moment in the NFL draft; as for the first time the top three picks all played together in college (Burrow started his career at Ohio State).
Pick 4: New York Giants
Last season the Giants selected Daniel Jones as the successor to Eli Manning with another top-10 overall pick. This season they got him some protection in offensive tackle Andrew Thomas from Georgia.
The Giants offensive line in 2019 was nothing to write home about. They allowed the 14th most sacks in the league as well as the third most total hits on the quarterback. They also struggled in run blocking as well, with the 14th fewest rushing yards per game the 11th-fewest rushing touchdowns.
Adding arguably the best tackle of the draft and a player who can make an immediate impact should make things easier for Jones and star running back Saquon Barkely.
Pick 5: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins were one of the most intriguing teams heading into this year’s draft; thanks to their combination of need and resources.
With three total first round picks and needing a new franchise quarterback, there was much speculation they would attempt to trade up. There was also the lingering question of who they would pick: Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or Oregon’s Justin Herbert.
The Dolphins went with Tua, whose stock fell from top prospect after a late-season hip injury versus Mississippi State. But while he could prove to be injury prone, the tape doesn’t lie. A healthy Tua Tagovailoa has a good chance for success in the NFL.
Pick 6: Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers released longtime franchise quarterback Phillip Rivers back in February. With Tyrod Taylor currently topping the depth chart; the Chargers needed to look to the long-term future of that position.
With Tagovailoa drafted at number five, it became a near certainty the Chargers would take Justin Herbert; who is a proven winner from the Pacific Northwest. In multiple career categories at Oregon he trails only Marcus Mariota, but still has room to grow with his decision making.
With Taylor also on the roster for Los Angeles, they could have the luxury letting Herbert ease his way into the league rather than tossing him in the fire. But with a solid core of surrounding weapons; he could be lots of fun to watch throughout his career.
Pick 7: Carolina Panthers
The Panthers were another team with lots of speculation about trading out of their first pick.
But ultimately they stayed put, selecting defensive tackle Derrick Brown seventh overall and filling a massive roster void. Brown joins Kawann Short and Woodrow Hamilton as the team’s only DT’s on the roster.
At Auburn he repeatedly showed the ability to overpower almost any offensive lineman, but his numbers at the NFL Combine weren’t spectacular. Whether he can elevate his game to play with NFL-sized lineman on a day to day basis is the question; but if the answer is yes the Panthers secured great value at their position.
Pick 8: Arizona Cardinals
Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons became the fourth defensive player off the board in eight picks after being selected by the Arizona Cardinals.
In college Simmons was a bonafide jack of all trades; playing multiple defensive positions at a high level. He played at least 100 snaps at four different positions in 2019; racking up seven sacks an hauling in three interceptions.
His versatility at the college level has created the lone question mark for the 6’4″, 230-pound rookie: where is he best? While that may still be a foggy matter, Kliff Kingsbury won’t be upset to have one of the most athletic players in the draft on his team.
Pick 9: Jacksonville Jaguars
At ninth overall the Jaguars selected cornerback C.J. Henderson from Florida.
With top corners Jaylen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye no longer on the team, the position was one of need for Jacksonville. With some analysts saying Henderson is a better prospect than third-overall pick Okudah, the Jags may have an early contender for steal of the draft near the end of the top-10.
While Jacksonville is still in a state of roster flux with some of its stars, Henderson figures to settle in as a mainstay for at least the next few seasons.
Pick 10: Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns rounded out the top-10 of the draft selecting Jedrick Willis Jr., an offensive tackle out of Alabama.
After a hugely disappointing 2019 season that began with playoff aspirations but ended at 6-10; one major upgrade the team needed was to its offensive line. Willis Jr. has experience as a blind-side blocker and should slide into the left tackle spot to protect franchise quarterback Baker Mayfield.
With the addition if Willis and free agent Jack Conklin, Cleveland may have filled in the final piece of the puzzle needed to return to the postseason.
Other Notable Picks
13th and 14th overall: After a noticeable lack of trading action early in the draft, the San Fransisco 49ers swapped their 13th pick with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 14th. Tampa selected Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs to help protect new quarterback Tom Brady; while San Fransisco took DT Javon Kinlaw at 14.
17th overall: As always, the Dallas Cowboys made waves by selecting wide receiver CeeDee Lamb with their first round pick. With Amari Cooper signed for the foreseeable future and Michael Gallup establishing himself as a real threat as well, wide out wasn’t the position of greatest need for Dallas. But with such an exciting prospect left of the board, Jerry Jones would be hard put to resist the temptation to grab him.
26th overall: The Green Bay Packers made perhaps the most shocking pick of the first round, selecting quarterback Jordan Love out of Utah State. Rather than getting current quarterback Aaron Rodgers (who is under contract until 2023) the firepower he desperately needs; the team instead showed signs the Rodgers era could be approaching the end.