The first round of the NFL Draft is set to go off on Thursday night, and here’s our best guess at how things will shake out for the first 32 picks.
Though trades are expected Thursday night, this draft was conducted without them, taking the 32 selections as they are currently scheduled.
1. Cincinnati Bengals, Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
This is happening. Let’s move on.
2. Washington Redskins, Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State
Our top-rated player, and other than perhaps trading down, there’s almost nothing else that Washington could do here that makes any sense.
3. Detroit Lions, Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State
With several needs that do not necessarily include quarterback, the Lions could definitely move down here. If they stay, getting the top corner in the draft should be an easy call.
4. New York Giants, Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia
It’s a deep group of tackles, so the Giants are another team that could trade down for a quarterback-seeking club. Jedrick Wells and Tristan Wirfs are perhaps more popular picks here, but the Giants want their offense based on Saquon Barkley, and Thomas’ power in the run game is unsurpassed.
5. Miami Dolphins, Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama
The Dolphins don’t absolutely need a quarterback, with 2018 No. 10 pick Josh Rosen waiting in the wings. But that also makes them the perfect team to take a chance on Tagovailoa’s questionable hip. They have three first-round picks and another developing quarterback option, so if he doesn’t work out, it’s a hit they can absorb.
6. Los Angeles Chargers, Justin Hebert, QB, Oregon
Philip Rivers is gone, and Tyrod Taylor has a career quarterback rating under 90. It’s clearly a need, and while Hebert might be a bit of a reach at No. 6, he’ll give the Chargers a someone they can sell in SoCal.
7. Carolina Panthers, Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson
While Carolina’s offensive moves got all the headlines this offseason, the retirement of Luke Kuechly left a big hole in the middle of the Panthers’ defense. Simmons isn’t the same kind of player, but can certainly help replace Kuechly as an impact talent in the middle level of the defense. With 16.5 tackles for loss, eight sacks, three interceptions and two forced fumbles in 2019, he’s a splash play waiting to happen.
8. Arizona Cardinals, Derrick Brown, IDL, Auburn
Offensive tackle is also a need for the Cardinals, but stud defensive tackles don’t come along very often and that’s exactly what Brown appears to be. Arizona’s defense was dead last in yards allowed in 2019, and Brown can help especially help shore up the Cardinals run defense.
9. Jacksonville Jaguars, Javon Kinlaw, IDL, South Carolina
Calais Campbell was a 6-foot-8, 300-pound Pro Bowl lineman for the Jaguars before being traded to the Baltimore Ravens this offseason. Kinlaw is 6-foot-6, 310 pounds and the top-rated interior defensive lineman by a long shot with Brown off the board. Seems like a good fit.
10. Cleveland Browns, Jedrick Wells, OT, Alabama
The Browns have been sniffing around Washington’s Trent Williams, who is reportedly available in a trade, but have not pulled the trigger. What might they be waiting for? A situation like this, where they’d have their pick of Wells, Tristan Wirfs and Mekhi Becton at tackle. Wells is the top-rated of the three, though Becton’s experience at left tackle may be a draw. With so many options, a trade down could be in the cards, as well.
11. New York Jets, CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma
The Jets need playmakers for Sam Darnold, and they’ll have their pick with all of the top of a deep group of receivers still on the board. Denver, which also has a wide receiver need and has 10 draft picks, could be primed to move up here to get their preferred target. If the Jets stay put, Lamb has the versatility to play anywhere and is a big-play threat whenever he gets the ball.
12. Oakland Las Vegas Raiders, CJ Henderson, CB, Florida
The Raiders are on the clock in the first round and there’s a speed demon wide receiver available. But alas, Al Davis is no longer here to make this a no-brainer prediction. Yes, the Raiders have a need at wide receiver, but they also need a cornerback, and with a much thinner class at corner than at wide out, it makes much more sense to grab Henderson here and still be able to get a good receiver at No. 19.
13. San Francisco 49ers, Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama
Tackle is also an option here, but Jeudy can be a day-one playmaker opposite Deebo Samuel and help San Francisco offset the loss of Emmanuel Sanders to free agency. Jeudy is a very-polished route runner and someone that the 49ers could place their championship-level expectations on right away after playing in big games at Alabama.
14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa
After spending $50 million on a 42-year-old quarterback in Tom Brady, the Bucs will place an emphasis on keeping his new red and pewter uniform clean by taking Wirfs, the most athletic of the big tackles available. Becton is also an option, but Donovan Smith already mans the left side, leaving Wirfs to his natural right tackle spot.
15. Denver Broncos, Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama
The Broncos might move up to make sure they get the receiver they want, but they’d probably be very happy with Ruggs falling into their lap. Ruggs ran a 4.27 40 at the combine, best amongst receivers, and will give Drew Lock a pure speed threat to go with big target Courtland Sutton.
16. Atlanta Falcons, K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU
The Falcons big needs are all on defense, but with the top tackles and corners gone, edge rusher presents a pick of value. Chaisson had 13.5 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks for LSU last season and is the second-best edge rusher in the draft after Young.
17. Dallas Cowboys, A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson
Corner is the Cowboys’ biggest need after Byron Jones bolted to Miami in free agency. Terrell isn’t one of the top corners that Jerry Jones and company were likely would hoping would fall here, and safety is an option, but with both starters set to become free agents after 2020, corner feels like to big of a need to ignore.
18. Miami Dolphins, Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
With their top pick taken on risky Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins will help protect him with Becton, the top remaining tackle, though his left-side tendency clashes with Tagovailoa’s left-handedness.
19. Las Vegas Raiders, Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU
The Raiders’ gamble pays off, landing one of the top wide receivers after already taking a corner. Jefferson is sure-handed and has rare deep speed from the slot, with a 4.43 40-yard dash.
20. Jacksonville Jaguars, Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State
With Kinlaw shoring up the inside, Gross-Matos will help the Jaguars get their pass rush going and re-establish a dominant defensive line in Jacksonville. The secondary is also a need, but with the top players already off the board, Gross-Matos brings high levels of upside to the bottom third of the first round.
21. Philadelphia Eagles, Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State
The Eagles need a wide receiver, and though four have already gone, they still have their pick of a few talented ones. Aiyuk’s run-after-catch ability makes him a threat to play right away while he continues to build strength and physicality.
22. Minnesota Vikings, Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU
Trae Waynes is gone and Fulton is a direct replacement, bringing the size and press physicality that Minnesota wants. Had some off-the-field troubles at LSU that probably depressed his draft stock, making him a high-upside, but higher-risk pick later in the first round.
23. New England Patriots, Jordan Love, QB, Utah State
This pick probably won’t happen here, with the Pats likely to move up to get a quarterback, or be able to move out of the first round and still get Love, who showed flashes of brilliance at Utah State, but also worrying amounts of inconsistency. It’s an ego pick for Bill Belichick, and if he gets the best out of Love, it will have been worth it.
24. New Orleans Saints, Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
The Saints need an inside linebacker after A.J. Klein’s departure through free agency. Queen is among the best insider backers in the class at a not-very-deep position and played down the road at LSU. Seems too easy.
25. Minnesota Vikings, Jeff Gladney, CB, Missouri
Back-to-back corners is a bit much, but Gladney is undersized by physical slot corner that Minnesota could also move around the defense if necessary.
26. Miami Dolphins, Cesar Ruiz, IOL, Michigan
Ruiz is the best interior lineman in the draft and along withBecton will give Miami a huge strength up front on offense as a foundation.
27. Seattle Seahawks, Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama
Safety isn’t a huge need for Seattle, but getting the top-rated one this far down in the draft will be too much to pass up, helping Seattle rebuild the Legion of Boom.
28. Baltimore Ravens, Kenneth Murray, ILB, Oklahoma
Inside backer is the Ravens’ biggest need and Murray can get downhill in a hurry. Great fit.
29. Tennessee Titans, A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
The Titans have bodies on their defensive line, but outside of Jeffery Simmons, no one that can be a disruptive force. Epenesa can be that, and comes with day-one ability.
30. Green Bay Packers, Laviska Shenault, WR, Colorado
A perfect late-first pick, Shenault has physicality and playmaking potential, but lacks the polish of some of the earlier wide receivers.
31. San Francisco 49ers, Josh Jones, OT, Houston
With their big need taken care of, the Niners can go best player available here and get a starting-caliber lineman late in the first round.
32. Kansas City Chiefs, Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama
Diggs has all the physical tools to be just about anything at the NFL level, but needs polish to become a pure starting corner. Otherwise, he could be a sub-package and special teams monster for the returning champs.
Chase Claypool Signs Steelers Contract
Steelers top draft pick Chase Claypool has signed his rookie contract. Claypool posted to his personal Twitter account a photo of him signing the contract on Wednesday night.
— Chase Claypool (@ChaseClaypool) July 22, 2020
According to Tom Loy of 247 Sports, Claypool signed a four-year contract worth $6.6 million, including a $2.4 million signing bonus.
The Steelers drafted Claypool out of Notre Dame with the 49th overall pick in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft. A 6-foot-4, 238-pound receiver from British Columbia, Claypool caught 150 passes for 2,159 yards and 19 touchdowns with the Fighting Irish.
Claypool is the third member of the Steelers’ 2020 draft class to sign his contract, joining third-round outside linebacker Alex Highsmith and fourth-round running back Anthony McFarland, Jr.
The Steelers rookies are in the process of reporting to training camp, which will begin fully at Heinz Field on July 28.
Film Study: Alex Highsmith Brings Juice to Steelers Pass Rush
The Steelers surprised more than a few people by taking an outside linebacker in the third round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Coming into the draft, it was a position that could be addressed due to the looming contract of Bud Dupree, who is on a one-year rental contract on the franchise tag. Seeing as the Steelers have a plethora of contracts to take care of in the next year, Dupree may be on his way out. Even then, with Anthony Chickillo gone, the Steelers needed to address the depth and get a rotational pass rusher.
All of that is taken care of now as they selected Charlotte’s Alex Highsmith, who was an uber-productive pass rusher who was a standout all week at the East-West Shrine Game in Tampa. Given what he has put on tape, his selection is not a surprise and the Steelers hit a home run with the pick of Highsmith, who put up quality tape not just against teams in the Conference USA, but also against a top team such as Clemson.
The one developing area of Highsmith’s game is his counters and pass rush moves. There are a few moves that he employs to win and starting last season, a spin move was one of the ways he won inside as offensive tackles overset for his speed rush. Highsmith has a few defining traits to his game, but there is no doubt that his explosive first step is a key one. He gets off the line and up the arc in a hurry because of his explosive first step. The good thing is that he is not simply a speed rusher. While that is how he wins most of the time, he can pull off nifty moves like this. Clemson tackle Jackson Carman oversets expecting the speed rush from Highsmith, but instead, he takes his pass rush angle up the arc and bends it back inside on that spin move.
One thing that was telling on the Clemson tape was just how much they prepared for Highsmith. Carman is a good tackle and a potential first-round pick in 2021, but Highsmith gave him fits all day long. They chipped Highsmith with tight ends and kept running backs in just in an effort to try and stop him. This play above shows off his first step. He has rocket shoes on his feet on this play as he beats Carman to his spot. If not for a quick three-step drop and throw from Trevor Lawrence, this may have been a sack for Highsmith off his explosiveness alone.
Run defense is a part of Highsmith’s game that is inconsistent, but as his hand usage has improved, so has his run defense. This play is one where he shows he can take advantage of a tackle’s mistakes. Carman is flat-footed and lunges towards Highsmith rather than driving through his chest, allowing Highsmith to be nifty and zoom right on by here. That is part of the reason his explosiveness causes so many problems. However, he does a nice job of executing a chop-rip to slice down the line to make a tackle. Based on the film, the chop-rip combination is Highsmith’s go-to move.
Here is the chop-rip again, this time for a sack. Highsmith does a great job of nailing his hand right inside the tackle’s pad, which is almost always certain death for a tackle. The ability to rip around the edge and make this arc tight is something that Highsmith is really good at doing. Still, this is more about his burst and hand usage combination that allows him to win.
This is exactly how Highsmith recorded most of his sacks, however. When the Steelers drafted him, they likely bet not just on his improvement as a strategist with his counters and moves, but his combination of burst and bend to destroy set angles and win around the edge with his speed rush. He does that extremely well here as he sets his pass rush angle up as if he was going to come here with some power move such as bull rush. However, his lateral agility allows him to cut back outside and use his explosiveness to get the angle. After that, it is all flexibility in his ankles. The ankle flexion he gets is really great on that lead leg. It bends and leads under his shoulders and hip to allow him to dip and reduce his surface area on his way to getting this sack.
The Steelers’ selection of Highsmith may have been their best pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. His combination of burst and bend makes him a perfect fit for the 3-4 outside linebacker scheme. With the Steelers rushing their outside linebackers more than ever, Highsmith is a great fit to provide more pass rush upside in the rotation than anyone since Jason Worilds. With his improvement in his pass rush plan and hand usage, HIghsmith could be a starter in 2021 if Dupree walks after the 2020 season.
Colbert Explains Why He Wanted Three Rounds Added to 2020 Draft
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert is offering an explanation as to why he wanted three rounds added to the 2020 NFL Draft.
Speaking with NBC Sport’s Mike Florio on the PFT PM podcast Tuesday, Colbert took the opportunity to clarify his suggestion.
“The reasoning was, part of it was selfish,” Colbert said. “You wanted to have a safety net because we’re dealing with less information, and the more picks you have, maybe you’ll have a little bit of a safety net again.”
With the league’s self-implemented travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, clubs were unable to conduct their normal scouting activities prior to the Draft. This included Pro Days, private workouts and in-person interviews.
Less opportunities to watch and speak with prospects results in a larger margin for error.
Colbert went on to say that it also would have benefited some of the fringe prospects in the Draft that never had the chance to showcase themselves at a Pro Day or other setting.
“The other thing was it would give the marginal player that didn’t get his opportunity to go to a Pro Day and to perform. Maybe there will be more players drafted and then those players will then again have the chance they might not get.”
Now without rookie minicamps, the challenges are mounting for clubs and NFL hopefuls.
“Every year a team might stumble upon a tryout player,” Colbert said. “Maybe if we ever get on the field, we can think of a way to help those because there’s a big group of players that aren’t getting opportunities because of the situation.”
Colbert reminded Florio that the Steelers discovered Devlin “Duck” Hodges as a tryout in camp last year.
It is unclear when teams will be allowed to return to the practice field for their offseason programs, with clubs currently conducting theirs entirely from home.