This past weekend, the NFL Draft provided all of us with two necessary things during these trying times: hope and normalcy. During the widespread coronavirus pandemic, many of us have been longing for the typical daily schedules of our everyday lives. Sports are off the air, concerts are canceled, and gatherings of any kind are not permitted. The NFL Draft was a return to our “regularly scheduled programming,” even if it was only for a little while.
The NFL Draft also brought us hope. That hope also extends well beyond the effects of coronavirus. The draft signifies the start of the new season. Each fan base believes that the players selected in the draft will help their team in future seasons and beyond.
As always, there were winners and losers from this weekend. Almost everyone is writing their own draft recap, and grading each selection in some way. However, the problem with that is your own bias of players and selections is unavoidable.
Therefore, the best way to grade a draft is to isolate how each player fits into the system they were selected to. Which player will succeed, despite being disliked by the draft media? Which player will fail, despite being a media darling for the majority of the draft process? Who had the deepest draft, who had the weakest draft, and what team was able to find their next superstar?
Part five of our eight-part NFL Draft recap delves into the winners, losers, and bold predictions for the NFC East.
The Selections: CeeDee Lamb, Trevon Diggs, Neville Gallimore, Reggie Robinson II, Tyler Biadasz, Bradlee Anae, Ben DiNucci
When it was reported that Jerry Jones would be running his team’s draft by himself, everyone in America expected the worst for Dallas. However, Jones managed to pull off one of the best drafts of 2020.
First, the Cowboys stole the top wide receiver in the draft class at 17. While some may say it wasn’t a need, Lamb is more valuable than the average fan may realize. The Cowboys need a true second target opposite Amari Cooper. Michael Gallup proved last year that he is not that guy. Lamb is a do-it-all playmaker on the outside. He runs clean routes, makes plays with the ball in his hands, and he’s terrific at the catch point. Part of the problem that the Cowboys have had is no one to compliment Amari Cooper. Lamb will help open up the entire passing attack.
Next, the Cowboys addressed two big needs on defense. Trevon Diggs will compete with Anthony Brown for the boundary position that Byron Jones has left vacated. Diggs is good in off coverage, and his strength is when he plays close to the line of scrimmage. Neville Gallimore is a necessary pass rushing threat from the interior. Gallimore has experience playing multiple techniques upfront. His versatility will make him a quality asset for the Cowboys moving forward.
Even the Cowboys day three picks have good upside. Tyler Biadasz can be a quality center in the NFL if the Cowboys can tap into his 2018 tape rather than the 2019 tape that had him slide down draft boards. Bradlee Anae was a senior bowl standout. He can run the arch, and has multiple moves to get home if the tackle kicks out and takes the arch away.
In short, Dallas put together a phenomenal draft class.
Bold Prediction: Tyler Biadasz Starts Week One and Returns to Form
The Cowboys will having a legitimate competition on their hands for the starting center position. Following Travis Frederick’s retirement, the Cowboys entered the draft with a major question mark at the center position. The Cowboys extended interior offensive linemen Joe Looney this offseason, but it was only for one year. Plus, Looney is better served as a backup. Connor McGovern, a third round pick from last year, is likely to compete for the starting job as well. Having said that, if all three players are right, Biadasz wins this competition in a walk.
Biadasz was once a highly touted prospect. Many felt he was a top 40 pick if he had chosen to come out in 2018. However, the 2019 tape was not nearly the same. Biadasz lunges at defenders a lot. He plays with a poor pad level at times, and his strikes are inconsistent.
If you go back to his 2018 tape, you see a starting caliber center. Biadasz shows the athleticism to pull in the run game. He’s light on his feet in pass protection and does a good job of recognizing which guard he needs to help out. Biadasz played with much better leverage in 2018 than 2019, and it’s one of the reasons for the massive discrepancy on tape.
In recent years, the Cowboys have done an excellent job developing offensive linemen. La’el Collins has become one of the better right tackles in football. Players like Zack Martin, Tyron Smith, and the aforementioned Travis Frederick became All-Pro caliber players under the Cowboys tutelage. If the Cowboys can get the most out of Biadasz, they will have a starting caliber center on their hands.
New York Giants
The Selections: Andrew Thomas, Xavier McKinney, Matthew Peart, Darnay Holmes, Shane Lemieux, Cam Brown, Carter Coughlin, T.J. Brunson, Chris Williamson, Tae Crowder
General Manager Dave Gettleman hit a home run with his first three selections. Andrew Thomas was by far the top tackle in the class, the media was just late to realize it. Gettleman has said on a number of occasions that he wants “hog mollies,” up front. What he means, is players with elite power, but also the athleticism to fit today’s game. Thomas is just that.
On day two, the Giants nabbed the top safety in the class, at least according to most. Xavier McKinney was touted as the best single high safety in the draft class. He shows good range from the “centerfield,” position in the back-end of the defense. McKinney is also a willing tackler, which is important for the cover free safeties. As the last line of defense, you can’t just be a ball hawk. You have to be willing to get your hands dirty, and McKinney does just that.
Matthew Peart has the size and length to become a starting caliber tackler when he refines his technique. His footwork is good, and he does a good job staying with edge players as they try to run the arch. Peart needs to develop some power in his strikes, but that’s why he was a third round pick. The pieces are there to make him a starter at the next level.
The Giants draft was very solid. It’s highlighted by the top three selections, but the most important one was the opening selection at the fourth overall pick.
Bold Prediction: Andrew Thomas has the Best Career of the Entire 2020 Draft Class
There was a conversation thrown around on NFL Draft twitter a few months ago about the idea of this draft class having a “generational talent.” The conversation was meant to be a debate about Chase Young, and where he should land in the draft. However, the other player that deserved this treatment was Andrew Thomas.
Thomas is a mauler in the run game. He gains leverage with terrific grip strength, quality athleticism, and by keeping his hands inside the shoulder pads. Many questioned his footwork in pass protection, but that never made sense. When you watch the tape, you see an athlete. His kickslide is how you teach it. Thomas dominated in the SEC, college football’s premier conference. In his entire collegiate career, Thomas allowed just five sacks. This is a superstar caliber player.
Offensive linemen do not always get the publicity they deserve in the modern day game. With the impact of fantasy football, most fans tend to stare at the skill positions on the field. Nevertheless, the trenches remain where you win and lose football games. Thomas will prove during his career that he should have been discussed as a generational talent.
The Selections: Jalen Reagor, Jalen Hurts, Davion Taylor, K’Von Wallace, Jack Driscoll, John Hightower, Shaun Bradley, Quez Watkins, Prince Tega Wanogho, Casey Toohill
No matter what the Eagles did in rounds three through seven, Philly’s draft was going to be highlighted by their first two picks. One was a need, and one was a questionable decision.
Reagor is the kind of playmaker the Eagles offense has been lacking. He makes big plays down the field, winning with athleticism at the top of the stem. Reagor can also make plays with the ball in his hands. He’s one of the many players with elite ability after the catch from this draft class.
The Eagles second selection was one marred with controversy. With multiple needs on their roster for the upcoming year, the Eagles chose a backup quarterback in Jalen Hurts. While Hurts may one day develop into a starter, the Eagles were not in the same position as a team like the Packers. Green Bay selected Jordan Love to be the heir to the throne for Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers is 36 years old and on the back nine of his career. Carson Wentz, however, is 27 years young. He’s still in his prime. It made much more sense for the Eagles to surround him with more talent, then to select Hurts.
Bold Prediction: Jalen Hurts Replaces Carson Wentz Before His Rookie Deal Ends
There were a number of factors that went into the selection of Jalen Hurts. For starters, some feel he can develop into a quality game manager. Hurts has good athleticism and the ability to get the ball out quickly. He played in multiple schemes in college and excelled in two completely different systems. The intangibles Hurts brings to the table has some excited about what he could be at the next level.
The second factor is Carson Wentz himself. Wentz has had a number of different injuries throughout his NFL career. The uncertainty surrounding his longevity might have forced the Eagles into planning for the future sooner than they would have liked.
Perhaps the biggest indictment on Wentz’s future in Philadelphia has come from the media. ESPN’s Emmanuel Acho went off on the Eagles’ training staff last December for how they handled Wentz’s latest injury. Acho went as far as to claim that Wentz would require “patience, and a good medical staff, which the Eagles have none of.” Perhaps the patience aspect is what drove the selection of Hurts. If Wentz gets injured again, the Eagles could realistically move in a different direction, even though they just gave Wentz a massive extension.
The selection of Jordan Love in Green Bay has created questions about the future of Aaron Rodgers with the Packers. The selection of Jalen Hurts should be doing the same for Carson Wentz in Philadelphia.
The Selections: Chase Young, Antonio Gibson, Saahdiq Charles, Antonio Gandy-Golden, Keith Ismael, Khaleke Hudson, Kamren Curl, James Smith-Williams
Washington attempted to trade down throughout the draft process, but got “stuck,” with the best player in the draft class. Young is an elite edge talent. Not only can he get to the passer in a variety of ways, but his impact is more than what you see on the box score. When you turn on the Wisconsin film from the Big Ten Championship game, you will see the amount of times Young was double and triple-teamed. That creates one-on-one opportunities for other players. Young will have an impact on every snap at the next level, even if he does not record a stat on the play.
Despite not having a second round pick, Washington picked up some day one contributors after round one. Antonio Gibson should be the third down back from day one. He has the ability to pass protect, and solid hands in the passing game. Antonio Gandy-Golden will be a red zone option for a team that desperately needs one. Gandy-Golden comes with some deficiencies as a route runner, but he high points the ball extremely well.
The most interesting selection Washington made after round one was Saahdiq Charles.
Bold Prediction: Saahdiq Charles Starts for Washington, but not at Offensive Tackle
Charles is a big time athlete for an offensive lineman. He’s quick on his feet in pass protection, and quick to get to the second level in the run game.
However, Charles lacks the power at times to be a successful tackle in the NFL. His strikes are inconsistent, and he struggles to maintain leverage. Also, Charles has some mental lapses. He does not always see the extra rusher, and sometimes he picks up the wrong defenders.
Now Charles could definitely sit for a year, get stronger, and refine the mental portion of being a left tackle. However, Washington’s offensive line is in shambles. They need talented athletes on the left side of their line right away, and that is exactly what Charles is.
So how do you protect Charles without throwing him to the wolves at left tackle from day one? The answer is to move him to guard. We have already stated how athletic he is at the second level. Teaching Charles to pull as a guard would come naturally to the former LSU Tiger. His footwork is his greatest attribute, and as a guard in space, he would be a terror to opposing defenses.
Charles has experience on an island in pass protection as well. His ability to mirror opposing rushers is what made him great at LSU. Put those mirror skills inside, and you will have a terrific pass protecting left guard when his technique becomes more refined.
While Charles may be Washington’s solution at left tackle, it’s not his only option. In fact, his better option at the next level is moving inside. Washington could have him compete with Wes Schweitzer right away, and eventually, have Charles take over the left guard spot.
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