For all the uniqueness of this NFL draft, including the angst over a potential communications fiasco, things looked and sounded pretty normal Thursday night.
Quarterbacks were in demand. Ohio State and the Southeastern Conference dominated. The Patriots traded out of the first round.
And Commissioner Roger Goodell even got booed, if only digitally.
“I do believe this draft is going to be the most memorable we have ever had,” said Goodell, noting that it is accompanied by a “Draft-A-Thon” to benefit six organizations on the front lines battling the coronavirus pandemic, which is what forced the NFL to cancel all in-person draft events.
The first round wasn’t all that remarkable for the picks. Beginning with Joe Burrow of national champion LSU, three quarterbacks went in the top six. Hardly unusual.
For months, the Heisman Trophy winner from LSU was linked with the Bengals. Cincinnati began the draft by sending his name to Goodell in the basement of his home.
This digital/remote/virtual draft — take your choice — was up and running. With no apparent glitches.
Of course, there were no fireworks on the Las Vegas Strip. No bear hug between Goodell and Burrow the commissioner said he would miss those, even if his body wouldn’t. This most basic selection show had team personnel making picks from their homes and players sitting on their own couches while learning their future employers.
The NFL cancelled all draft activities in Las Vegas when the national shutdown of large gatherings began. The league had gone full-bore into free agency last month and, now, seven rounds of the draft through Saturday.
“I just believe that our job is to continue on and operate within whatever guidelines are necessary to keep our personnel safe, whether it’s players or coaches or their executives or league personnel,” Goodell said. “We need to make sure that we’re doing things safely and put public safety No. 1, but we also need to carry on. We need to move toward the future. We need to make sure that we’re prepared when we come out of this to be in a position to start our season on time and play our season. That’s our role.”
Normalcy, at least among the picks, was the order of the evening, though.
First came Burrow: In his spectacular senior season, he threw for 60 — yes, 60 — touchdowns with only six interceptions. The Tigers beat six top 10 teams on their way to the national title.
“To jump up to No. 1 overall is crazy to me,” Burrow said.
He joins a team that went 2-14 last season and desperately needs a jolt of energy.
“If you go in thinking, ‘Oh, this is the year we’re going to make the playoffs, this year we’re going to win a playoff game,’ it gets too daunting,” Burrow said. “You’ve got to focus on the process.”
Bengals coach Zac Taylor was confident Burrow could turn the franchise around.
“We will never pick at No. 1 again,” Taylor said. “We don’t want to pick in the top 10 again. We’re looking at this as the only time you’re going to get this calibre player to add him to the program, so obviously this is a big deal.”
The second overall selection, Ohio State All-America edge rusher Chase Young, also was predictable. Washington fielded several offers for that spot, but many scouts and personnel executives felt Young was the best player in this crop.
At 6-foot-5, 264 pounds, Young led the nation with 16 1/2 sacks and forced fumbles with six last season. The All-American won the prestigious Bednarik and Nagurski awards in 2019, leading the Buckeyes to the Big Ten title.
He joins a Redskins team that went 3-13 and allowed 435 points.
If not for the NFL’s obsession with finding the latest, greatest quarterback prospect, Young might have been the top overall selection. That QB infatuation led Miami to Tua Tagovailoa and the Los Angeles Chargers to Justin Herbert — no surprises there. But Green Bay took a chance at No. 26 by taking Utah State QB Jordan Love.
Alabama’s Tagovailoa went fifth, followed in the next spot by Oregon’s Herbert. They were preceded by Ohio State’s Jeff Okudah, the highest-rated cornerback, to Detroit, and Georgia tackle Andrew Thomas to the Giants.
Tagovailoa’s health issues didn’t turn off the Dolphins.
The Alabama quarterback went to a team that was accused going into last season of “Tanking for Tua.” Tagovailoa comes off major hip surgery, which made his landing spot one of the first round’s biggest uncertainties.
“For me and my family, whoever decided to take a chance on us, that’s where I belonged,” Tagovailoa said. “My biggest thing is I’m trying to prove this was the right decision.”
One change he’ll need to make in Miami: No. 13 is not available. The Dolphins retired it for Hall of Famer Dan Marino.
“I understand No. 13 is retired, and it should be,” Tagovailoa said. “Whatever number I’m given by the organization, if it’s 78 or 99, I’ll wear it.”
Blessed with a quick release, excellent mid-range accuracy and nimble feet, Tagovailoa threw 76 touchdown passes in 24 starts the past two seasons. He helped the Crimson Tide to the 2017 national title.
Herbert had a strong post-season, including a terrific Senior Bowl week that raised his stock. At 6-foot-6, 236 pounds, he has the size the pros like, and he’s a good athlete. But he also is not as accurate passing as he’ll need to be.
Los Angeles had a burning hole at quarterback after letting go of longtime starter Philip Rivers. Plus, the Chargers plan to move into a new stadium and could use someone to help sell tickets.
It took until the 13th spot before a trade was made: Tompa, oops, Tampa Bay moving up one spot to get tackle Tristan Wirfs of Iowa to help protect new/old QB Tom Brady. The Buccaneers got that pick from NFC champion San Francisco.
Wide receiver is the deepest position in this draft, but it took until the 12th selection for one to go. Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III, perhaps the fastest man in this group (4.27 in the 40), was the first-ever draftee by the Las Vegas Raiders. Coach Jon Gruden loves speed, and he got a burner who scored 24 touchdowns among 98 career receptions.
New England, which will go into a season without Brady for the first time since 1999, sent its 23rd overall spot to the Chargers, adding a second- and third-rounder. The Chargers were eager to bolster their defence with Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray.
The Packers, despite needs at receiver, offensive line and linebacker, traded up from No. 30 to 26th and selected for the future with Love. Aaron Rodgers, of course, sat for a few years in Green Bay behind Brett Favre. Love might do the same behind A-Rod.
.@CenturyLink_Fld employees have been hard at work providing meals for the Seattle community during the COVID-19 crisis.— NFL (@NFL) April 24, 2020
They got to announce the @Seahawks selection of @TexasTech LB Jordyn Brooks. #NFLDraft
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Players selected in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday night (x-underclassmen).
Joe Burrow, QB, 6-foot-3, 221 pounds, LSU
Strengths: Accuracy, poise and athleticism, plus the ability to command an offence. Weaknesses: Doesn’t have the biggest arm, but it will do.
Fact: The last time the Bengals drafted a quarterback in the first round was 2003, when they picked Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer first overall. Burrow is the third consecutive Heisman winner to be selected No. 1.
x-Chase Young, DE, 6-5, 264, Ohio State
Strengths: Prototype build and athleticism of an All-Pro pass rusher. Weaknesses: Could use more variety in his pass rush moves, but no reason why that won’t come.
Fact: This is the fourth straight season the Redskins have drafted a defensive lineman in the first round following Montez Sweat (2018), Da’Ron Payne (2017) and Jonathan Allen (2016).
x-Jeff Okudah, CB, 6-1, 205, Ohio State
Strengths: Tall, smooth and physical. Plays well in multiple coverages. Weaknesses: Getting off blocks in run support.
Fact: Sixth time in seven years an Ohio State corner has been taken in the first round. First defensive back drafted in the first round by Detroit since Terry Fair in 1998.
4. New York Giants
x-Andrew Thomas, OT, 6-5, 315, Georgia
Strengths: Strong hands and the ability to play either side of the line. Weaknesses: Can get off-balance and heavy on his feet.
Fact: First offensive lineman taken in the first-round by the Giants since 2015 (Ereck Flowers) and third since 2013 (Justin Pugh).
x-Tua Tagovailoa, QB, 6-0, 217, Alabama
Strengths: Quick release, with excellent mid-range accuracy and nimble feet. Weaknesses: Coming off a serious hip injury.
Fact: First Alabama quarterback taken in the first round since Richard Todd in 1976.
6. Los Angeles Chargers
Justin Herbert, QB, 6-6, 236, Oregon
Strengths: Ideal size and a good athlete. Weaknesses: Spotty touch. His passes often sail when he lets loose.
Fact: Herbert is the fifth Oregon quarterback selected in the first round since the merger, including three other top-10 picks: Akili Smith (1999, No. 3 to Cincinnati), Joey Harrington (2002, No. 3 to Detroit) and Marcus Mariota (2015, No. 2 to Tennessee).
Derrick Brown, DT, 6-5, 326, Auburn
Strengths: Elite size and strength that demands double teams — which he can beat. Weaknesses: Agility could limit him as a pass rusher.
Fact: Sixth defensive player and third defensive tackle taken in the first round by the Panthers since 2012.
x-Isaiah Simmons, LB/S, 6-4, 238, Clemson
Strengths: Maybe the best athlete in the draft. The perfect modern defender, capable of playing three or four positions. Weaknesses: Ummmmm?
Fact: After taking quarterbacks in the first round the last two seasons (Kyler Murray and Josh Rosen), the Cardinals go with a versatile linebacker for the second time in four years (Haason Reddick, 2017)
x-CJ Henderson, CB, 6-1, 204, Florida
Strengths: Burst to make up ground. Weaknesses: Locating and playing the ball can be spotty.
Fact: Fifth defensive player in six year selected in the first round by Jacksonville.
x-Jedrick Wills, OT, 6-4, 312, Alabama
Strengths: Plays smart and mean.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal size.
Fact: Seventh offensive lineman from Alabama taken in the first round during Nick Saban’s 13-year tenure. First offensive lineman taken in the first round by the Browns since 2009 (Alex Mack).
11. New York Jets
x-Mekhi Becton, OT, 6-7, 365, Louisville
Strengths: Huge and nimble for his size. Weaknesses: Technique needs to be refined.
Fact: First offensive lineman taken by the Jets in the first round since D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold in 2006.
12. Las Vegas
x-Henry Ruggs III, WR, 5-11, 188, Alabama
Strengths: Elite speed and acceleration. Weaknesses: His game is somewhat limited but what he does well is hard to find.
Fact: Last wide receiver taken by the Raiders in the first round was Amari Cooper in 2015, also from Alabama.
13. Tampa Bay from San Francisco via Indianapolis
x-Tristan Wirfs, OT, 6-5, 320, Iowa
Strengths: Rare athleticism for his size. Ran a 4.85-second 40-yard dash at the combine. Weaknesses: Arm length is less than ideal.
Fact: Last time the Buccaneers selected an offensive lineman in the first round was 2006 (Davin Joseph). Last tackle was Kenyatta Walker in 2001.
14. San Francisco from Tampa Bay
Javon Kinlaw, DT, 6-5, 324, South Carolina
Strengths: Long, athletic and powerful as a pass rusher. Weaknesses: More tools than consistent technique.
Fact: Kinlaw is the fifth defensive lineman taken by the 49ers in the first round in the last six years.
x-Jerry Jeudy, WR, 6-1, 193, Alabama
Strengths: Smooth and polished route runner with excellent burst. Weaknesses: Slim build lacks strength.
Fact: Last wide receiver taken by Denver in the first round was Demaryius Thomas in 2010.
x-A.J. Terrell, CB, 6-1, 195, Clemson
Strengths: Tall and steady with excellent speed. Weaknesses: Lean lower body. Could be more aggressive.
Fact: Falcons take a cornerback in first round for first time since Desmond Trufant in 2013.
x-CeeDee Lamb, WR, 6-1, 195, Oklahoma
Strengths: Game-breaking elusiveness after the catch. Weaknesses: Will have to develop quickness off the line to beat press coverage.
Fact: First receiver selected in the first round by the Cowboys since Dez Bryant in 2010.
18. Miami from Pittsburgh
x-Austin Jackson, OT, 6-4, 322, USC
Strengths: Long arms and light on his feet. Weaknesses: High upside, but very raw.
Fact: Starting with Jake Long in 2008, the Dolphins have now taken five offensive linemen in the first round, including four tackles.
19. Las Vegas from Chicago
Damon Arnette, CB, 6-0, 195, Ohio State
Strengths: Physical corner who plays the ball well. Weaknesses: Little stiff and not a burner.
Fact: Third cornerback taken by the Raiders in the first round since 2013, including Gareon Conley from Ohio State in 2017.
20. Jacksonville from Los Angeles Rams
x-K’Lavon Chaisson, OLB/DE, 6-3, 254, LSU
Strengths: Explosive and agile with speed to run down plays. Weaknesses: Injuries cost him most of 2018 and some of 2019 and left him with an unrefined game.
Fact: Jaguars have used all their first-round picks son players from the SEC the last four years.
x-Jalen Reagor, WR, 5-10, 206, TCU
Strengths: Speed to get deep and shiftiness to turn short plays into long gains. Weaknesses: Can get pushed around in coverage.
Fact: The son of former Texas Tech star and longtime NFL defensive lineman Montae Reagor is the first receiver taken by the Eagles in the first round since Nelson Agholor in 2015.
22. Minnesota from Buffalo
x-Justin Jefferson, WR, 6-1, 202, LSU
Strengths: Dominated from the slot with great body control. Weaknesses: Size and strength weren’t tested much in LSU’s offence.
Fact: Jefferson replaces WR Stefon Diggs, who the Vikings traded to Buffalo for this pick.
23. Los Angeles Chargers from New England
Kenneth Murray, LB, 6-2, 241, Oklahoma
Strengths: Sideline-to-sideline playmaker. Weaknesses: Can fly out of position and into bad angles.
Fact: First linebacker taken in the first round by the Chargers since Larry English in 2009.
24. New Orleans
x-Cesar Ruiz, C, 6-2, 307, Michigan
Strengths: Solid build. Plays smart and instinctive. Weaknesses: Quickness is lacking.
Fact: For the second consecutive season the Saints select a centre with their first pick, though last year they used a second-rounder to take Erik McCoy.
25. San Francisco from Minnesota
Brandon Aiyuk, WR, 6-0, 205, Arizona State
Strengths: Dangerous after the catch. Weaknesses: Needs to play stronger in traffic.
Fact: Last wide receiver taken in first round by the 49ers was A.J. Jenkins in 2012.
26. Green Bay from Miami via Houston
x-Jordan Love, QB, 6-4, 224, Utah State
Strengths: Big and talented arm. Tall, smooth athlete. Weaknesses: Telegraphs some throws and will bail out of workable pockets at times.
Fact: First quarterbacks drafted by the Packers in the first round since they took Aaron Rodgers in 2005 at No. 24 overall to be Brett Favre’s eventual replacement.
Jordyn Brooks, LB, 6-0, 240, Texas Tech
Strengths: Reliable tackler with good speed. Weaknesses: Not a natural in coverage.
Fact: Last linebacker taken in the first round by the Seahawks was Aaron Curry in 2009.
x-Patrick Queen, LB, 6-0, 229, LSU
Strengths: Speed and athleticism make him valuable in coverage or blitzing.
Weaknesses: Size makes him more of a chaser against the run.
Fact: First LSU player drafted by the Ravens.
x-Isaiah Wilson, OT, 6-6, 350, Georgia
Strengths: Ideal size and build. Weaknesses: Fundamentals and technique have a ways to go.
Fact: First offensive tackle taken in the first round by the Titans since 2016, when they took Jack Conklin, who signed with the Browns as a free agent this off-season.
30. Miami from Green Bay
Noah Igbinoghene, CB, 5-10, 198, Auburn.
Strengths: Recovery speed and toughness. Weaknesses: Converted wide receiver is still raw as a cornerback.
Fact: The 14th of a record 15 players from the Southeastern Conference selected in the first round. The previous record for one conference in the first round was 12, done twice previously times by the SEC and by the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2006.
31. Minnesota from San Francisco
Jeff Gladney, CB, 5-10, 191, TCU
Strengths: Quick and fierce. Weaknesses: Size could limit him to slot.
Fact: Third cornerback taken by the Vikings in the first round since 2015.
32. Kansas City
x-Clyde Edwards-Helaire, RB, 5-7, 207, LSU
Strengths: Shifty with great balance. Weaknesses: So-so speed, especially for his size.
Fact: Only running back taken in the first round and first running back selected in the first by the Chiefs since Larry Johnson in 2003.
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