5 ColdHardFootballFacts From the 2020 NFL Draft First Round

Cameron Smith

Yes, there were surprises, but far fewer than most imagined on a night when just three trades were consummated in the first round of the NFL Draft. Here were the biggest takeaways from the NFL's biggest offseason night:


5) Wow, Ohio State had a lot of talent. At one point, all three of the night's top draft picks were student athletes at Ohio State. Yes, top pick Joe Burrow eventually had to transfer out to get his starting shot at LSU, but he and Chase Young and defensive back Jeff Okudah overlapped for a year. Two years later all three were announced back-to-back-to-back to start the NFL Draft. Not long thereafter fellow Buckeye Damon Arnette was picked at No. 19 by the Raiders, marking four former Buckeyes picked in the first round. It made for a proud moment for both current Ohio State head coach Ryan Day — who helped recruit all three players — and former coach Urban Meyer (who got the credit for landing them), who is now a college football analyst for Fox Sports.

4) Speaking of talent, about that 2019 LSU team ... The Tigers actually outstripped Ohio State in the first round, finishing with five picks. That included first round bookends, with Burrow at the top and running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire the final pick of the round to the Chiefs. Burrow was the only top-10 pick from the squad, but there was a rush on Tigers late in the first as if everyone was looking for quality control and felt they couldn't blow it by taking a national champ. Burrow and Edwards-Helaire were joined by wide receiver Justin Jefferson and two defensive starters, defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson and linebacker Patrick Queen. None of those picks were a shock and only Edwards-Helaire could be considered a slight surprise to sneak into the first round. Given that there are still at least 2-3 other prospects who could justify a spot in the first round, there's no question which roster truly had the most talent in college football last year.

3) They aren't going to admit this, but the Miami Dolphins were drafting for 2021. The Dolphins' long "Tank for Tua" campaign officially came to fruition Thursday, and then they added an offensive tackle to protect him and an uber-athletic defensive back who has the potential to eventually replace the man who was traded for the pick, Minkah Fitzpatrick. All of those picks make terrific sense on paper, but here's the thing: 1) Tagovailoa is still recovering from a hip injury, 2) USC OT Austin Jackson, the No. 18 pick, is considered more of a "project" lineman than some of the other tackles the Dolphins could have selected, and 3) Auburn CB Noah Igbinoghene is a wide receiver convert still learning the nuances of the position. Project any of these issues on to the NFL level and there should be real question about the ability of any of the three to contribute right away ... and that's before you consider the impact of a shrunken or non-existent training camp and offseason workouts. Look, Brian Flores proved he wants to win, and win right away in his first season in Miami. Maybe they'll be convinced Tagovailoa presents the best opportunity for that, but that doesn't mean it's the best move for he or the franchise. This is almost certainly not what any excited Dolphins fan wants to hear the day after the team makes three first round picks, but the best thing for the franchise might well be bagging the 2020 campaign in favor of a healthier, more experienced start to 2021.

2) The Patriots don't trade out of the first round often, but when they do, it often goes well. Bill Belichick and co. dealt out of the No. 23 spot on Thursday in favor of a second and third round pick from the Chargers. That may have been disappointing for Pats fans who were excited to have a higher pick than they have in years, but past history says this move could pay dividends for a team that desperately needs to restock on young talent. It's a stereotype to say that the Patriots always trade out of the first round. In fact, Belichick has only done that twice before: in 2009, when he landed safety Patrick Chung and offensive lineman Sebastian Vollmer with the resulting picks, and 2012, when linebacker Jamie Collins and cornerback Logan Ryan were added. Those are pretty, pretty good returns for a couple first round picks. Like a stock, past performance is no guarantee of future performance, but Patriots fans should temper their disappointment for missing out on a first round pick, at the very least.

1) Four quarterbacks were picked in the first round. Only one is guaranteed to start Week 1. Let's start from the beginning: the Bengals didn't pick Joe Burrow first overall to sit him on the bench. Burrow is going to start in Cincinnati as soon as they're playing football. That may not be the case for the other three quarterbacks selected in the first round. We've already mentioned Tagovailoa's hip injury and recovery, and it's a no-brainer that Jordan Love will sit behind Aaron Rodgers. That means the true swing quarterback is Justin Herbert, the Oregon star selected by the Chargers with the sixth overall pick. The only veteran quarterback on the Chargers roster for Herbert to beat is Tyrod Taylor, but that might prove to be a deceptively tough task; Taylor is a quarterback who doesn't make lots of mistakes and manages the game. His arm talent pales in comparison to Herbert, but he has experience, guile and might be a better fit for the Chargers offense than Herbert, at least out of the box. Naturally, that doesn't mean Herbert isn't the solution long term in Los Angeles, but he and Tagovailoa aren't the sure fire starters that Burrow will be.