Jun 8, 2020
What if every NFL team had a complete do-over in building its roster? What if every single player were a free agent? What if the worst team in the league had a chance to add a Super Bowl MVP at quarterback? Or one of the worst defensive teams out there was able to plop a two-time Defensive Player of the Year in the middle of its front?
Well, let’s find out. We hit reset on NFL contracts and released every player to the open market. Then we gave our NFL Nation reporters the GM job, allowing them to re-draft the foundations for their teams. Here are the rules:
Every current NFL player is available, and salary caps don’t matter here. But we only drafted four rounds.
In those four picks, each pretend GM had to select a quarterback, a non-QB offensive player and a defensive player. The fourth pick was a wild card, open to anything.
We used the 2020 NFL draft order, with traded picks reversed, and a snaking format.
What about the other 20 starters for each team? The rest of the roster is made up of average-level NFL talent. Our analytics team identifies that as someone such as OT Donovan Smith, edge rusher Harold Landry III or CB Malcolm Butler.
Each GM was asked to draft with intentions of winning a Super Bowl within five years. Some took a harder line, while others built a base that might still need a year or two.
So how did the players come off the board? What kinds of strategies were used? Which team came out looking like a championship favorite? Our NFL Nation reporters explain their process. Plus, ESPN Stats & Information provides a nugget for each roster, and Mike Clay evaluates each foursome with a tiered draft grade (1-4). Navigate by team or skip ahead to the full list of Nos. 1-128 at the bottom.
Drafted by Ben Baby, Bengals reporter
If this squad isn’t putting up 30 points a game, it will be looking for a new offensive coordinator. On this team, points and big plays are king, time of possession is overrated and using two tight ends in a single formation is grounds for dismissal. But for that philosophy to work, it needs an elite quarterback. Fortunately, I had the No. 1 overall pick and used it on Mahomes, the reigning Super Bowl MVP who is perfectly suited for today’s modern game.
The next three picks were all about the quarterback: protecting him (Tunsil), rushing him (Allen) and catching his passes (Lockett). Expect to see high-scoring games, an exasperated opposing defensive coordinator and an exciting style that would make Hal Mumme proud. — Baby
Stat to know: Mahomes loses Tyreek Hill, who leads the NFL with 21 touchdowns of 40-plus yards since 2015 (including returns). But who is second on that list? Lockett, with 12, giving this exercise’s “Mr. Irrelevant” a great chance to continue Mahomes’ big-play production.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 2. Mahomes was the obvious 1-1 pick. Allen has big upside but is unproven, Tunsil is a fine anchor and Lockett remains underrated.
Drafted by John Keim, Redskins reporter
Wilson was a no-brainer at No. 2 overall. He consistently plays at a high level and lifts his team. He also is durable and smart. Most of the top defensive ends were gone when I was again on the board, so I went with Barrett. Now I just have to hope he wasn’t a one-year wonder (19.5 sacks in 2019).
Williams was an easy pick for me too. He still has several high-level years remaining, but I worry about his durability. I wanted a corner next and hoped Marshon Lattimore would fall to me with the next-to-last pick. He didn’t. But I didn’t want to force the position, so I went with a young playmaker in McLaurin. With his ability to separate and all that speed, he would be a good fit with Wilson. — Keim
Stat to know: Over the past three seasons, Wilson’s 100 touchdown passes are 15 more than any other quarterback. But he could benefit from playing behind an offensive lineman like Williams; Wilson has been sacked (142 times) and contacted while throwing/rushing (356 times) the most in the league since 2017.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 2. I can’t fault Keim for making Wilson the second player off the board, nor Barrett and his sack production in Round 2. Williams provides an anchor at left tackle, and McLaurin supplies Wilson with a good, young target.
Drafted by Michael Rothstein, Lions reporter
I thought about defense at No. 3 overall, but taking a quarterback seemed like a must. And when Jackson — who I thought would go No. 1 or No. 2 — fell to me, it seemed too good to be true. Beyond that, I made the decision to go with two defensive players before the draft even started, given the league’s lean toward passing. Since I couldn’t find any young pass-rushers I loved on the board when I was again on the clock, I instead decided to make my secondary dominant with James and White. And then I gave Jackson a speedy option to work with in Moore, who can line up almost anywhere.
Safety might not seem like a ton of value, but James gives me protection against both the run and pass, and he was a player I keyed on from the beginning for my roster. Age also played a part in how I built my team. I want ascending players as franchise cornerstones to build around, knowing they can still get better over the next three seasons. I found that in all four players. — Rothstein
Stat to know: Moore ranked ninth in the NFL with 1,175 receiving yards in 2019 despite catching passes from three different quarterbacks. He’ll settle in nicely with Jackson, who set an NFL QB rushing record with 1,206 rush yards last season but also had a league-high 36 passing TDs.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 1. The reigning MVP at third overall? That will do. Round 2 is a little early for a safety, as Rothstein alluded to, but James is a star. White was a steal at No. 67, and Moore is a good value at No. 126.
Drafted by Jordan Raanan, Giants reporter
If you don’t have a quarterback, you don’t have a chance. It’s really that simple. And Watson has produced 64 total touchdowns in the past two seasons — only Mahomes and Wilson had more — and did it behind a really bad offensive line.
After that, I had to wait awhile (57 picks) but still tabbed one of the league’s best pass-rushers in Ngakoue. Again, positional value was key. I got the most important offensive position with my first pick and the most important defensive position with my second. An All-Pro tackle in the third round helps give Watson’s line talent he hadn’t seen in Houston. And put fourth-rounder Robinson with Watson instead of Mitchell Trubisky and you’ll see the star ability. This is a core that would win multiple Super Bowls. — Raanan
Stat to know: Watson — the first player in NFL history with at least 25 touchdown passes and five rushing touchdowns in consecutive seasons — and Robinson should be able to connect for some tough completions; Robinson had the third-most receptions (18) on tight-window throws last season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 1. It feels like Watson remains a bit underrated by the general consensus, so I’m glad he got some respect here. And then Raanan found good value the rest of the way.
Stephen A. Smith makes the case for why Deshaun Watson has the best chance to challenge Patrick Mahomes as the top quarterback in the NFL.
Drafted by Cameron Wolfe, Dolphins reporter
Quarterback was my first priority, but my clear top four options were gone. So it was between a trio of QBs with differing concerns — Carson Wentz (durability), Aaron Rodgers (age) and Kyler Murray (limited proven production) — and Donald. I took my chances with the defensive tackle. Defense wins championships, right?
I landed Cousins in Round 3 as the 24th QB off the board, and I loved the value there. I got the player I consider the NFL’s best running back in Elliott late in round 2, and he will be the focal point of my offense. I thought about taking Adam Thielen (given his chemistry with Cousins) or cornerback Xavien Howard with my wild-card pick, but I couldn’t pass on Byard. He is arguably the NFL’s best safety and a strong leader. I wish one of the big-four QBs fell to me, but I have a consistent playoff team that leans on defense, the run game and a veteran QB. My team might not be the top contender, but it could easily snag a Super Bowl in a five-year period. — Wolfe
Stat to know: Premium investment in a defensive tackle again? You’ll forgive the skepticism of Dolphins fans, but there’s a reason Donald is the most double-teamed pass-rusher in the NFL, per pass-rushing metrics from ESPN and NFL Next Gen Stats. And offensively, an average O-line should be plenty for Elliott, who leads the NFL with 928 rush yards against loaded boxes over his career.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 2. Bold move to not convert the fifth overall pick into a QB! But it’s hard to knock the selection of the league’s best defensive player, and Cousins falling to No. 69 was a good bailout. While I don’t love the Round 2 running back move, getting Byard late was a steal.
Drafted by Kevin Seifert, national NFL writer
I built the Chargers from the inside out, based on three tenets. First, there is a severe shortage of really good offensive linemen in the NFL. Second, finding a pass-rusher who can demand and beat double-teams is rare. Third, the No. 6 spot meant I wouldn’t have access to a young, elite quarterback.
In drafting tackle Stanley and guard Brooks, I have two of the best at their positions. They’ll give me maximum scheme flexibility and make good skill position players better. They also can help recover the inevitable fumbles of my young quarterback, whom I chose with my third pick because of the players remaining at that point. He had the most reasonable room for improvement. Smith wasn’t my first choice for a pass-rusher — I had hoped that Danielle Hunter would slip a bit further — but he fits the bill. — Seifert
Stat to know: Jones will appreciate the blocking help after seeing pressure on 32% of his dropbacks last year, the fifth-highest rate in the league. By ESPN’s pass-block metrics, Stanley is one of the NFL’s most consistent blockers. Since 2018, he’s held his block for at least 2.5 seconds 93% of the time, per NFL Next Gen Stats, trailing only David Bakhtiari and Andrew Whitworth among OTs with 300 pass blocks.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 3. Man, I hate passing on a QB with the sixth overall pick, but with age in mind, Stanley is arguably the league’s most valuable LT. And Jones has a shot and isn’t a bad flier if you wait at the position.
Drafted by David Newton, Panthers reporter
I made up my mind before the draft that if my top four QBs were gone at No. 7, I would go with the best defensive player. If you’re going to win in this league you’d better be able to create pressure, and Bosa does. And with the wild run of quarterbacks in the first round and into the second, I opted to continue building my roster from the inside out on defense and around pressuring the quarterback with Buckner.
The key to my draft ultimately will be Stidham. To help him, I took Wills — the 10th overall pick of the 2020 NFL draft — in the fourth round. You can fill in receivers and running backs with average talents, but look at most Super Bowl teams and you’ll find a solid interior core with a lot of high draft picks. I also chose to build the roster around players 26 or younger to get the best years of their careers. If Stidham is the real deal, I’ll see you in the Super Bowl. — Newton
Stat to know: Getting to the QB was a top priority for the Panthers, and they’ve solidified their line with one of the better outside (Bosa) and inside (Buckner) rushers. Bosa’s 0.78 sacks per game ranks third in the NFL over the past four seasons (minimum 40 games). And over the past two years, Buckner has 18.5 sacks when lined up at defensive tackle, third most in the league.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 4. Bosa is great, but seventh overall is too early. There are more young, impact edge rushers than there are reliable QBs. Buckner is a fine get at 58th, but Stidham under center is a major risk, as is protecting him with an unknown in Wills.
Drafted by Josh Weinfuss, Cardinals reporter
Brees might not have five years left, but he for sure has a good one or two in him, so I immediately went into win-now mode. I followed with arguably the best pass-rusher in the NFL who no one pays attention to; Jones’ 96 sacks since 2012 are the most in that time frame.
I gave Brees one of the four best receivers since 2011 in Green, and paired Jones with a lockdown corner in Peterson. That Jones-Peterson duo will create havoc for offenses and be the cornerstone for a winning defense. — Weinfuss
Stat to know: From 2011 to ’17, Brees threw for over 3,200 yards more than anyone else in that span, while Green was the only receiver to be selected to the Pro Bowl each season.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 3. It’s 2020 or bust for GM Weinfuss. You may get only one year out of Brees, who is 41, and durability issues for Green, 31, make the veteran receiver risky. Jones, 30, is an elite edge, and while Peterson, 29, is a fine pick, he’s nearing the end of his prime.
Drafted by Mike DiRocco, Jaguars reporter
I wanted players who are 27 or younger. Taking Prescott at No. 9 might raise some eyebrows, but he has averaged 3,944 yards and 24 TD passes in his first four seasons and is coming off his best season. Smith-Schuster is only 23 and will be a top-five receiver as long as he’s not catching passes from Devlin Hodges.
On defense, it’s all about elite pass-rushers and corners, and only Aaron Donald and Chandler Jones had more sacks than Danielle Hunter (29) over the past two seasons. Lattimore was the Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2017 and has made two Pro Bowls in three seasons. Good young players form a fantastic nucleus in the quest to win a Super Bowl within five years. — DiRocco
Stat to know: Prescott has posted an above-average Total QBR in all four seasons of his career and ranked fourth last year at 70.2. The only Jaguars passer to post a QBR that high since the metric began in 2006 was David Garrard in 2007. Hunter could also make Duval County forget about Yannick Ngakoue: Hunter had more sacks (14.5 to 8.0) and pressures (56 to 40) in 2019.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 1, and my best draft award. I’m surprised Prescott fell to ninth. Hunter is only 25 and remains painfully underrated. Smith-Schuster might have gone in Round 1 if we re-drafted a year ago. And Lattimore is one of the league’s best corners at just 24 years old.
Michael DiRocco breaks down why he chose Dak Prescott over other available QBs, as well as his reasons for taking Danielle Hunter and Marshon Lattimore in the Jaguars’ NFL Nation re-draft.
Drafted by Jake Trotter, Browns reporter
My strategy was to operate against the grain of simply taking the best QB available, and I got the league’s best young defender in Bosa. I assumed I’d still be able to get a proven QB starter with my second pick, but given what was left, I opted to go with highest upside possible. Yes, the success of my draft will hinge on Herbert developing into a franchise-caliber quarterback within the five-year window. But at some point, you have to roll the dice on a QB, and Herbert has an elite skill set.
My approach then shifted to getting Herbert help on his timeline, and that includes Godwin, still just 24. I probably should’ve taken a young left tackle like Andrew Thomas or Jedrick Wills Jr. with my final pick, but Landry is a Pro Bowler and another asset for Herbert. — Trotter
Stat to know: Bosa was easily the league’s best rookie in ESPN’s pass rush win rate, beating his block within 2.5 seconds on 21.8% of his pass rushes. And counting on the unproven Herbert is a little easier to do when you’re the only team in the exercise with two of the league’s top 10 in receiving yards last year. Godwin was one of two players (Michael Thomas) with 1,300-plus and nine-plus receiving TDs.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 4. I don’t love passing on QB at 10th overall, but Bosa is a defensive cornerstone. Herbert is a complete lottery ticket, and the QB situation scares me. At least he’ll have weapons.
Drafted by Rich Cimini, Jets reporter
I didn’t want to build a one-year wonder. All four picks are under the age of 30, and I made the seemingly ridiculous decision to take Wentz, 27, over Aaron Rodgers, 36, with the 11th overall pick. I’m thinking long term here, folks, and I think I picked up four blue-chip talents in the prime of their careers.
Admittedly, there are durability concerns with Wentz, Beckham and Chubb, but the risk-reward factor was too good to ignore. When all three are healthy, they can be among the best at their respective positions. People tend to forget about Chubb because he missed most of last season because of a knee injury, but he’s the same player who exploded for 12 sacks as a rookie. As for Martin, he doesn’t play a so-called premium position, but we’re talking about the best guard in the sport and a future Hall of Famer. I like my team. — Cimini
Stat to know: Wentz averaged 299.8 yards per game over Weeks 14-17 last year, throwing seven touchdowns and zero interceptions — and his Eagles were led in receptions in that stretch by Boston Scott, Greg Ward Jr. and Dallas Goedert. Beckham and his five career 1,000-yard seasons represent a significant talent upgrade.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 3. Well done grabbing a franchise QB in Wentz at 11, and we know OBJ has elite upside. It just felt way too early on Chubb.
Drafted by Paul Gutierrez, Raiders reporter
Let’s make right what once went wrong, shall we? The Raiders coulda, shoulda, woulda drafted Rodgers way back in 2005 but went with speedy cornerback Fabian Washington instead. Now a grizzled vet and a future Hall of Famer, Rodgers has a massive chip on his shoulder with the Packers having drafted Jordan Love, and Jon Gruden loves vets with chips — and ‘ships. Miller, a veteran presence on defense who has terrorized the Raiders for nine years, checks another box.
Filling out this roster with youth and speed is the yin to the vet yang, so Jacobs and Ruggs — the fastest man in the 2020 draft — make for a balanced roster. — Gutierrez
Stat to know: Miller’s sack total was “only” 8.0 last year, the first time he has had less than 10 sacks in a full season. Since entering the league in 2011, Miller has more double-digit-sack seasons (seven) than the Raiders as a team (four).
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 4. Rodgers might not be what he used to be, but I can’t fault taking him at No. 12. And Miller still has something left at age 31. But while Jacobs was great as a rookie, going RB is bold, especially one who hasn’t done much as a receiver. And I think there were proven star WRs available when Ruggs was picked.
Drafted by Mike Wells, Colts reporter
The Colts are known for selecting franchise quarterbacks (Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, anyone?). Now it’s Burrow’s turn. Honestly, it was a little surprising that Burrow was still on the board at No. 13.
Coach Frank Reich values tight ends in his offense, and Ertz is one of the best in the NFL, giving Burrow a go-to target. Who better to provide nastiness for the entire team than Nelson, who arguably was the best overall player from the 2018 draft? Franchise quarterback. Big target for said QB. Anchor on the offensive line. And then an anchor on defense with Leonard, who led the NFL in tackles as a rookie in 2018 and was a Pro Bowler in 2019. The foundation is set in Indianapolis. — Wells
Stat to know: Indy hangs on to the crown jewels of its 2018 draft class in Nelson and Leonard. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the two were the second pair of rookie teammates to each make first-team All-Pro, joining Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers of the 1965 Bears.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 2. There were safer QB targets at No. 13, but I can appreciate selecting an age-23 potential franchise QB in Burrow. Ertz is a safe pick, and hometown heroes Nelson and Leonard will be difference-makers for a long time.
Drafted by Jenna Laine, Buccaneers reporter
I wanted a proven QB versus potential, and I chose Brady because of his track record, his 45 career game-winning drives and longevity — even at 42, he has missed fewer games than Ben Roethlisberger or Matthew Stafford. I also trust his “clutch” gene more than Matt Ryan. But in taking Brady, I know my window to win will be much smaller than other teams, possibly as small as two years.
Kamara was the third-best non-QB offensive player on my board, so I was thrilled to land him. He can line up anywhere on the field and can help Brady in the screen game. I like that Jones can move all across the defensive line, and his 69 wins against double-teams over the past four seasons puts him second only to Aaron Donald in the NFL, according to ESPN pass-rush metrics powered by NFL Next Gen Stats. Golladay has back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, so I consider him terrific value in the fourth round. — Laine
Stat to know: The Buccaneers drafted everything to help a soon-to-be 43-year-old quarterback. Since coming into the league in 2017, Kamara ranks third in scrimmage touchdowns (37) and fifth in scrimmage yards (4,476). And last season, Golladay had the most catches (16) and tied for the most touchdown catches (five) on throws 20 yards downfield.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 1. Brady on the Bucs? Pfft. Like that would ever happen. I don’t like the Round 2 running back, but at least Kamara is a receiving weapon, too. Jones is an absolute steal in Round 3, and Golladay a strong late find.
Jay Williams and Rob Ninkovich debate how close Tom Brady could be to surpassing Michael Jordan for greatest athlete of all time.
Drafted by Jeff Legwold, Broncos reporter
Working off the five-year window, the line between current production and youth with room to grow had to be considered with the selections. The quarterbacks came off the board quickly with 10 already gone, so I made my biggest gamble on potential with Lock.
I had gone in thinking quarterback, edge rusher and cornerback, and I gave a long look at Von Miller with my second pick. But in the everyday NFL world, edge rushers often develop the most quickly, so that was a position that could be addressed later in a full-team build. I decided to get a little more offense with Kelce instead. I might have gotten a little impatient there, and if we redid it, I would lean defense in the second round. Defensive versatility came in the third with Simmons, the top player on my 2020 draft board, and I think Sutton was a Round 4 steal. — Legwold
Stat to know: Kelce and Sutton serve as a strong inside-outside tandem. Kelce’s 69 catches between the painted numbers trailed only DeAndre Hopkins and Michael Thomas in 2019. Sutton averaged just under 17 yards per catch on targets outside the numbers, which ranked 10th. The duo could help justify the presence of Lock, who was selected before Matt Ryan and Kyler Murray.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 4. Legwold showed his faith in Broncos GM John Elway by taking Lock over safer QB options and then Sutton in Round 4. Kelce is a good, safe pick at No. 50. Simmons is risky, but there’s obviously big upside for the 2020 first-rounder.
Drafted by Vaughn McClure, Falcons reporter
Eleven quarterbacks were drafted before my selection, and I’m one of those who believe Ryan is still a top-10 quarterback despite his age. You need your franchise QB, and he gives you almost a 70% completion rate and durability (one missed game over the past 10 seasons).
A consistent pass rush is also a must, and Jordan has averaged 13.5 sacks over the past three seasons. Pressure up front then needs to be coupled with great coverage, and all signs point to Okudah being a shutdown corner for years to come. Lastly, one NFL executive said Lamb will be a Pro Bowl receiver this year. As a rookie. So imagine how bright his future is. — McClure
Stat to know: The Falcons get a big boost on defense with the addition of Jordan, who has the third-most sacks over the past three seasons (40.5). Atlanta ranks 27th in sack rate over that same period (5.6%).
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 3. Ryan, 35, figures to have a few years left, so getting him 16th overall is a strong value. And the underrated Jordan is a nice get, too. But Lamb and Okudah went before many proven stars at their positions.
Drafted by Todd Archer, Cowboys reporter
The game is about quarterbacks, pass-rushers, pass-protectors and big-play ability. I bet on Murray because I wanted to make sure I had a QB who can make plays when things break down. I went with Smith because he remains one of the best left tackles in the game.
In the third round, I got cute and it hurt me. I wanted to take DeMarcus Lawrence but thought maybe his five-sack season in 2019 would make him slip to the final round. I’m happy with Allen, but I could have gotten a comparable receiver in the fourth while shoring up the pass rush first. Needing to take a defender with my last pick, my choice was down to Crosby and Jeff Okudah. A pass rush makes a secondary better, and Crosby’s 10 sacks in 2019 lead me to believe he will have bigger things to come in the future. — Archer
Stat to know: Murray likes to get the ball out quickly and had the second-most pass attempts (285) with fewer than 2.5 seconds from snap to throw. He’ll enjoy throwing to Allen, who has been the model of consistency with the third-most receptions since 2017 (303) and 1,100 receiving yards in each of the past three years.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 1. Archer had to be shocked Murray was still on the board at 17th overall. I sure am. Both Murray and Smith were steals, and I do like the Allen get at No. 81. Crosby was probably a reach, but he flashed as a rookie.
Drafted by Brooke Pryor, Steelers reporter
At No. 18, I felt like I was in no-man’s land. The top-tier QBs were off the board, and the some of the best skill players were also gone. I decided to go with Bridgewater because he has shown the potential to jump into the next tier of QBs, and I think a couple of years in New Orleans have made him even better. Then I focused on getting a game-changing defensive player. A young Swiss Army knife talent like Fitzpatrick more than fits the bill.
Next, I wanted to give Bridgewater durable support in an offensive weapon and a protector. I went with Schwartz for that protection, though I almost chose Orlando Brown. Schwartz has a Super Bowl ring, so I ultimately chose experience over youth, but I believe Brown is on his way to becoming a mainstay in the league. Metcalf was my final pick. Sure, he had a good rookie season, but I’m still not over his pre-draft workout photos. No way could I pass on a guy as jacked as him. — Pryor
Stat to know: Can Fitzpatrick replicate the impact he had on Pittsburgh’s defense last year? After he joined the team before Week 3, the Steelers’ defense led the NFL in Total QBR allowed (39.1) and tied with the Panthers for the league lead in sacks (49).
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 3. I would’ve aimed younger at No. 18, and the jury certainly remains out on Bridgewater. He has made only six starts over the past four complete seasons. But it’s hard to fault the Minkah, Schwartz and Metcalf selections.
Drafted by Jeff Dickerson, Bears reporter
I was determined to draft a quarterback in Round 1 and felt fortunate that Garoppolo was available. At 28 years old, he tied for fifth in touchdown passes (27) and took his team to the Super Bowl last year. And Henry, the NFL’s rushing champion, was a no-brainer for me in the second round.
I wanted another offensive weapon, so I used my wild-card pick on Jeudy. My only regret is that I took Jeudy over Amari Cooper, who went four spots later. Hindsight is 20/20, but there’s no time to second-guess in my war room. I wrapped up the draft by addressing defense with ascending Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson. Translation: 12 victories and a berth in the conference championship game, at minimum. — Dickerson
Stat to know: Which two teams led the NFL in play-action passing yards last year? Henry’s Titans (1,694) and Garoppolo’s 49ers (1,614). There might be a play-action pass or two in this Chicago playbook.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 4. Garoppolo appears legit, and getting him at 19th overall is a nice value. Henry doesn’t catch enough balls to go at No. 46, and as Dickerson acknowledged, it was risky to go Jeudy over proven commodities. I would’ve looked elsewhere on defense, too, but Jackson is solid.
Drafted by Lindsey Thiry, Rams reporter
The top tier of quarterbacks were off the board, so I held out, anticipating a few midtier options would remain available after the initial first-round run. It made sense instead to get the multipurpose McCaffrey, who last season led the league with 2,392 scrimmage yards. Because of the snake format, it also made sense to select an elite defensive player in Wagner in the second round.
My quarterback gamble paid off in the third round, as I was able to take Goff. He might have had a down season in 2019, but he still has plenty of potential given that he helped the Rams to the Super Bowl in 2018. A good-to-elite pass-rusher is always important in forming a successful defense, and Fowler — coming off his most successful season to date with 11.5 sacks — seemed like an obvious great value. — Thiry
Stat to know: McCaffrey became only the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 rushing and 1,000 receiving yards in the same season (Marshall Faulk and Roger Craig). But he also led all running backs in receptions and receiving yards on play-action, which should help Goff, who in 2018 threw a league-best 15 play-action TDs.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 3. McCaffrey is incredible, but my analytically inclined brain can’t get behind an RB at 20th overall. Wagner is a great get, Goff isn’t a bad find in Round 3 and Fowler is off the board a bit too early.
Max Kellerman, Booger McFarland and Christian McCaffrey can’t agree on who’s the best running back in the NFL between McCaffrey, Zeke Elliott and Saquon Barkley.
Drafted by Tim McManus, Eagles reporter
I bought low on the 25-year-old Mayfield, believing circumstance dragged him down last season and that he’s poised for a sharp ascent entering Year 3. Given that we’re looking at a five-year window to pursue a championship, I can’t think of an edge rusher I’d rather bet on than the exceptionally gifted Young, who led the FBS with 16.5 sacks last season.
I would have preferred a left tackle in Round 3, but it would have been a forced pick given the players available, and you can sleep well knowing Johnson is going to take care of business on his side. With the main priorities checked off the to-do list, I gave Mayfield an explosive skill position player to lean on in Brown. — McManus
Stat to know: Expect plenty of big plays. Mayfield has the fourth-most completions of at least 20 yards downfield (56) over the past two seasons. Now he gets to throw to Brown, who led all rookies in receiving yards (1,051) last season and averaged the second-most yards per reception (20.2) in the NFL.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 2. Mayfield remains an unknown, but I like the upside dart throw at No. 21. We know Johnson is an elite OT, and while Young and Brown are less of sure things, both have elite upside.
Drafted by Marcel Louis-Jacques, Bills reporter
With so many QBs off the board by the time my first pick came around, I wanted to focus on getting a bonafide playmaker for whichever QB I ended up with. And you can’t do too much better than Thomas. Then Allen’s ability to extend plays and move the chains elevated him above the remaining QB candidates in the second round, especially if he develops on the same trajectory in Year 3 that he did in Year 2. Judon provides this defense with a high-level pass-rusher, while Hyde secures the secondary as one of the league’s most underrated and versatile safeties. — Louis-Jacques
Stat to know: If you’re sticking with Allen, the only qualified passer who didn’t complete 60% of his passes in either 2018 or 2019, then pairing him with Thomas is as good as it gets. NFL Next Gen Stats tells us Thomas led the league with a plus-12.7% catch percentage above expectation last season. That’s great news for Allen’s accuracy; he ranked 31st out of 32 last year in off-target percentage on short throws (17%).
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 4. Thomas may be the most valuable non-QB in the league. But can Allen get him the ball? And Nos. 86 and 107 feel a little early for Judon and Hyde, respectively.
Drafted by Mike Reiss, Patriots reporter
A trusted personnel evaluator relayed that any good team would primarily focus on four areas — QB, pass-rusher, CB and left tackle. But picking at No. 23, there was concern with the quality of QB that would be there. So it was a pleasant surprise to see Darnold still available (he got the nod over Matthew Stafford due to age). Two top pass-rushers in Watt and Clark create the foundation for a defense that will attack with the pass rush, while Cooper in the third round was simply a case of not letting an unexpected opportunity with a high-end player pass.
I was hoping All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson would fall to No. 87 in the third round, but it figures the Colts (No. 77) ensured that wouldn’t happen. Cooper was a nice consolation prize. — Reiss
Stat to know: The Patriots are the only team in this exercise that has two different pass-rushers with 20-plus sacks over the past two seasons.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 3. I appreciate the objectivity of taking Darnold over Stidham, but the locals may not. Landing Watt at No. 42 is a steal, and Reiss did a solid job filling out the roster with Cooper and Clark.
Drafted by Mike Triplett, Saints reporter
I obviously went with the “best available” strategy since I was the last person to draft a QB. I considered Kirk Cousins in Round 2, but since 17 QBs were taken before I even made my first pick, I never felt like there would be a major drop-off if I waited. I’m happy with Rivers in the short term while I develop a future replacement — maybe even Taysom Hill.
Meanwhile, I landed a top-10 overall talent in Mack at No. 24 and a steal in Adams at No. 88. My toughest choice was Ramczyk at No. 41 over fellow OTs like Tyron Smith, Laremy Tunsil and Terron Armstead. But Ramczyk is obviously a great fit with the Saints, just turned 26 and is widely regarded as the league’s top right tackle. And we could move him back to his college position of LT if needed. — Triplett
Stat to know: The passing game was a priority on both sides of the ball. Mack is one of two players since 2014 with 60.0 sacks and 20 forced fumbles (Chandler Jones). Last season, Adams had the second-best completion percentage relative to expectation when the nearest defender, trailing only Eddie Jackson, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. And Adams has 12.0 career sacks, which is most among all defensive backs over the past five seasons (Adams debuted in 2017).
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 3. Mack is great, but also 29 years old and not a QB. That’s a risky move at No. 24. I like the Ramczyk and Adams picks, and Rivers is a great short-term QB find at No. 105.
Drafted by Courtney Cronin, Vikings reporter
I grabbed Tannehill, who I see as a top-15 QB talent, with my first-round selection and built around him. The 2019 season was the best of Tannehill’s career, and I believe bringing a true No. 1 receiver like Adams into the mix will allow him to carry over that success for the next three to five years. Adams has the second-most receiving touchdowns (28) over the past three seasons and shows up when it counts the most, with 45 catches for 687 yards and six touchdowns in eight playoff games.
The value I got for a pass-rusher (another key part of a Super Bowl team) in the third round, when I landed Armstead coming off a 10-sack breakout season, made me feel like I was building a solid, balanced team. I chose Smith with my wild-card pick because when a future Hall of Famer is available, you take him, especially one who makes plays all over the defense. According to ESPN Stats & Information, he’s the only player in the league with 20-plus interceptions (23) and 10-plus sacks (13) since 2012. — Cronin
Stat to know: Adams is Tannehill’s only above-average skill player, a spot in which he’s familiar. Over the past two years, Adams is one of six wideouts who have accounted for over one-quarter of their team’s targets, joining Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins, Jarvis Landry, Keenan Allen and Julio Jones.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 3. Cronin is betting that she’ll get the Tannehill of 2019. We’ll see. But Adams, Armstead and Smith were good, safe picks.
Drafted by Sarah Barshop, Texans reporter
No elite quarterback available at No. 26? No problem. The player I took instead only needs an average one to be an All-Pro. Hopkins is in his prime and has put up huge numbers with the likes of Brian Hoyer, Brock Osweiler and Tom Savage throwing him the ball.
I was shocked to see Barkley on the board for my next pick, so I opted to go for the best running back-wide receiver combo in the league. Carr is coming off a strong season without elite playmakers to throw to, so he was an easy third-round pick. I wanted J.J. Watt but couldn’t risk missing out on the best of the remaining quarterbacks. Besides, Mathieu — who was voted by his teammates as the MVP of the reigning Super Bowl champions — is an ideal leader and playmaker to lead the defense. — Barshop
Stat to know: The non-O’Brien Texans welcome back Hopkins and pair him with Barkley, both of whom rank third at their positions in scrimmage yards since 2018. And Carr quietly set career highs in Total QBR and yards per attempt last season and would have the two best weapons of his career.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 2. I am shocked Barshop took Hopkins over David Johnson. Wait, no I’m not. Speaking of running backs, I would’ve passed on one in the second round, but at least it’s the young, dynamic Barkley. Carr was a strong value, and Mathieu’s versatility is a terrific get.
DeAndre Hopkins joins Jalen & Jacoby to rank himself against the elite wide receivers in the NFL like Michael Thomas and Julio Jones.
Drafted by Brady Henderson, Seahawks reporter
Eighteen quarterbacks were already taken, and I went into the draft prioritizing a wide receiver or left tackle as my non-QB offensive player. Evans was the choice at No. 27 because he’s younger than Julio Jones and more trustworthy than Tyreek Hill.
Jared Goff was tempting at No. 38, but I went with Ramsey with the hopes that Roethlisberger would still be there for my third pick. He was. My thinking: The difference between Goff and Roethlisberger is smaller than the difference between Ramsey — arguably the NFL’s top cornerback — and any defenders who would be available at No. 91. It was a toss-up between Lawrence and Frank Clark for my final pick, but I went Lawrence because of his superior pass rush win rate. — Henderson
Stat to know: What better way for Roethlisberger to get his career going again after missing all but two games last season than throwing the ball to someone like Evans, who joined Randy Moss as the only players with 1,000 receiving yards in each of their first six seasons.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 2. Evans is a difference-maker but a bit bold of a pick in Round 1. Landing Big Ben in Round 3 was a nice save, while Ramsey and Lawrence are tremendous gets on defense.
Drafted by Jamison Hensley, Ravens reporter
As one team official said long ago, you need a strong-armed quarterback to compete in the AFC North. Stafford was too obvious. The only other worthy quarterbacks available were either too young (Tua Tagovailoa) or too risky because of health (Cam Newton).
The Ravens’ mindset is to take a running back next, but Jones was sitting there at the No. 37 overall pick. As Baltimore showed time and time again in the 2020 NFL draft, you take the best player available. The Ravens have traditionally had vocal leaders on defense, so it made perfect sense to take someone like J.J. Watt. For the wild-card spot, the targets were running back Nick Chubb and kicker Justin Tucker. But both were selected in the five picks before I was on the clock. The top player left at the No. 101 pick, in my opinion, was Diggs. — Hensley
Stat to know: Stafford ranks sixth in passing TDs over his career (237), but his teams have ranked in the top 12 in scoring defense only once. Enter Watt, whose Texans defenses have ranked in the top 12 in scoring defense in six of his nine career seasons.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 2. Stafford was one of the steals of the draft, as the 32-year-old remains an above-average starter. This team will have a short window with Jones and Watt nearing the end of their primes. Will Diggs dig being second in line at WR?
Drafted by Turron Davenport, Titans reporter
How can I generate chunk plays through the air and keep opposing teams from doing the same? On offense, Hill is a receiver who can score any time he touches the ball and one of the NFL’s best deep threats. To further take advantage of that, I got Newton because of his downfield accuracy. The current real-life free agent can also extend plays to give Hill even more time to break free from coverage.
Defensively, I had Cox targeted, figuring he’d drop because of his sack numbers. He’s a disruptive player who impacts the quarterback and consistently stops running plays behind the line of scrimmage. Getting a top-level coverage corner like Alexander to match up with opposing WRs makes the pass defense complete. — Davenport
Stat to know: Could Hill’s speed turn Newton back into Superman? Hill has 43 catches of at least 30 yards since entering the league in 2016, the most in that span. Newton’s average pass traveled 10.3 air yards in his 2015 MVP campaign, third highest in the NFL. But that dipped to a career-low 7.0 air yards per attempt in 2018, which ranked 30th.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 3. Davenport landed a game-changer in Hill at No. 29 and quickly found him a QB (albeit a risky one) in Newton a few picks later. Cox and Alexander are both defensive disruptors.
Domonique Foxworth explains why Cam Newton hasn’t lived up to expectations during the nine years he has been in the NFL.
Drafted by Rob Demovsky, Packers reporter
Picking at No. 30 wasn’t ideal for finding an established quarterback who’s better than average. But if you’re running the Packers, you better have a quarterback who can keep the franchise relevant. The ceiling is higher for Tagovailoa than any of the experienced guys who were still available. And you better protect him with an All-Pro tackle (yes, Bakhtiari is a left tackle and Tua is left-handed, so he wouldn’t necessarily be protecting his blind side, but he’s elite). You’d love a pass-rusher, too, but the surefire disruptors were gone by Round 3. A shutdown corner is next best in terms of importance, and I got that in Slay.
As for the kicker, why the heck not if you can get the best one in the league? The leaguewide field goal percentage last season was 81.6% (the lowest since 2009, according to ESPN Stats & Information), so having a kicker who’s coming off a 96.6% season (28- of-29) might win a game or two. Besides, it’s my team, and I’ll do what I want! — Demovsky
Stat to know: Keeping Tagovailoa upright is priority No. 1, and Bakhtiari will help a lot. He was the best pass-blocking offensive tackle in the NFL, according to ESPN’s pass block win rate, sustaining 96% of his pass blocks for at least 2.5 seconds.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 2. Tua was arguably as good as Burrow pre-injury, so landing a 22-year-old potential star QB at No. 30 is an excellent value. Demovsky then protects him with one of the best in Bakhtiari, adds a top CB in Slay and then takes … a kicker?
Drafted by Nick Wagoner, 49ers reporter
With the 31st pick, I planned to wait on QB, and I wanted either the best player at a lesser position where there’s a sizable drop-off or someone who is elite at a premium position. I believe I checked each box with Kittle and Garrett, respectively.
I would have waited to take Winston with my final pick, but Kansas City still needed a quarterback, and he was the clear best option at that point. Finally, I would have preferred a top corner with my last selection, but Jarrett is one of the most underrated players in the league, and I liked him better than any of the corner options available. So I figured I’d give Garrett a running mate to get after quarterbacks. — Wagoner
Stat to know: Over the past two seasons, Kittle’s 2,430 receiving yards trail only Travis Kelce among tight ends. That should help Winston, who in that same span has completed 64% of his passes to tight ends, fourth worst of any quarterback with at least 100 such throws. Meanwhile, the “Arrett Brothers” should provide pressure on the quarterback. Last season, Jarrett was second in pass rush win rate among interior defenders, while Garrett was fourth off the edge.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 1. Kittle and Garrett are arguably the best at their respective positions, Winston is a great QB flier at No. 95 and Jarrett is an elite DT. I like it a lot!
Drafted by Adam Teicher, Chiefs reporter
I was guided by the “best player available” philosophy throughout and was pleasantly surprised at the availability of the NFL’s top cornerback in Gilmore and a couple of versatile backs in Cook and Chubb. But having seen how the draft unfolded, I made a mistake in waiting until my second wave of back-to-back picks to get my quarterback.
I anticipated a better selection of QBs being available when I passed the first time around, and I was wrong. Instead of Cook, I should have gone for a veteran like Kirk Cousins, Derek Carr or Jared Goff, or even a younger player like Justin Herbert or Jarrett Stidham. But now I’m stuck with a journeyman at the game’s most important position, and I’m afraid I’m doomed to a lowly record and a much higher draft pick next year. — Teicher
Stat to know: Virtually the opposite of the real-life Chiefs, this Kansas City team will be run-heavy. It features a backfield with last year’s second-ranked (Chubb) and seventh-ranked (Cook) rushers in rushing yards per game. And when he was a starter from 2015 to ’17, Taylor’s 1,575 rushing yards and 14 rushing TDs trailed only Cam Newton among QBs.
Mike Clay’s draft grade: Tier 4. Starting with the league’s best corner was great, but back-to-back running backs and a 30-year-old borderline backup QB is problematic.
ALL 128 PICKS OF THE RE-DRAFT
1. Cincinnati: Patrick Mahomes, QB
2. Washington: Russell Wilson, QB
3. Detroit: Lamar Jackson, QB
4. N.Y. Giants: Deshaun Watson, QB
5. Miami: Aaron Donald, DT
6. L.A. Chargers: Ronnie Stanley, OT
7. Carolina: Joey Bosa, DE
8. Arizona: Drew Brees, QB
9. Jacksonville: Dak Prescott, QB
10. Cleveland: Nick Bosa, DE
11. N.Y. Jets: Carson Wentz, QB
12. Las Vegas: Aaron Rodgers, QB
13. Indianapolis: Joe Burrow, QB
14. Tampa Bay: Tom Brady, QB
15. Denver: Drew Lock, QB
16. Atlanta: Matt Ryan, QB
17. Dallas: Kyler Murray, QB
18. Pittsburgh: Teddy Bridgewater, QB
19. Chicago: Jimmy Garoppolo, QB
20. L.A. Rams: Christian McCaffrey, RB
21. Philadelphia: Baker Mayfield, QB
22. Buffalo: Michael Thomas, WR
23. New England: Sam Darnold, QB
24. New Orleans: Khalil Mack, OLB
25. Minnesota: Ryan Tannehill, QB
26. Houston: DeAndre Hopkins, WR
27. Seattle: Mike Evans, WR
28. Baltimore: Matthew Stafford, QB
29. Tennessee: Tyreek Hill, WR
30. Green Bay: Tua Tagovailoa, QB
31. San Francisco: George Kittle, TE
32. Kansas City: Stephon Gilmore, CB
33. Kansas City: Dalvin Cook, RB
34. San Francisco: Myles Garrett, DE
35. Green Bay: David Bakhtiari, OT
36. Tennessee: Cam Newton, QB
37. Baltimore: Julio Jones, WR
38. Seattle: Jalen Ramsey, CB
39. Houston: Saquon Barkley, RB
40. Minnesota: Davante Adams, WR
41. New Orleans: Ryan Ramczyk, OT
42. New England: T.J. Watt, OLB
43. Buffalo: Josh Allen, QB
44. Philadelphia: Chase Young, DE
45. L.A. Rams: Bobby Wagner, ILB
46. Chicago: Derrick Henry, RB
47. Pittsburgh: Minkah Fitzpatrick, S
48. Dallas: Tyron Smith, OT
49. Atlanta: Cameron Jordan, DE
50. Denver: Travis Kelce, TE
51. Tampa Bay: Alvin Kamara, RB
52. Indianapolis: Zach Ertz, TE
53. Las Vegas: Von Miller, OLB
54. N.Y. Jets: Odell Beckham Jr., WR
55. Cleveland: Justin Herbert, QB
56. Jacksonville: Danielle Hunter, DE
57. Arizona: Chandler Jones, DE
58. Carolina: DeForest Buckner, DE
59. L.A. Chargers: Za’Darius Smith, OLB
60. Miami: Ezekiel Elliott, RB
61. N.Y. Giants: Yannick Ngakoue , DE
62. Detroit: Derwin James, S
63. Washington: Shaquil Barrett, DE
64. Cincinnati: Josh Allen, DE
65. Cincinnati: Laremy Tunsil, OT
66. Washington: Trent Williams, OT
67. Detroit: Tre’Davious White, CB
68. N.Y. Giants: Terron Armstead, OT
69. Miami: Kirk Cousins, QB
70. L.A. Chargers: Daniel Jones, QB
71. Carolina: Jarrett Stidham, QB
72. Arizona: A.J. Green, WR
73. Jacksonville: JuJu Smith-Schuster, WR
74. Cleveland: Chris Godwin, WR
75. N.Y. Jets: Bradley Chubb, OLB
76. Las Vegas: Josh Jacobs, RB
77. Indianapolis: Quenton Nelson, G
78. Tampa Bay: Chris Jones, DT
79. Denver: Isaiah Simmons, ILB
80. Atlanta: CeeDee Lamb, WR
81. Dallas: Keenan Allen, WR
82. Pittsburgh: Mitchell Schwartz, OT
83. Chicago: Jerry Jeudy, WR
84. L.A. Rams: Jared Goff, QB
85. Philadelphia: Lane Johnson, OT
86. Buffalo: Matthew Judon, OLB
87. New England: Amari Cooper, WR
88. New Orleans: Jamal Adams, S
89. Minnesota: Arik Armstead, DE
90. Houston: Derek Carr, QB
91. Seattle: Ben Roethlisberger, QB
92. Baltimore: J.J. Watt, DE
93. Tennessee: Fletcher Cox, DT
94. Green Bay: Darius Slay, CB
95. San Francisco: Jameis Winston, QB
96. Kansas City: Nick Chubb, RB
97. Kansas City: Tyrod Taylor, QB
98. San Francisco: Grady Jarrett, DT
99. Green Bay: Justin Tucker, K
100. Tennessee: Jaire Alexander, CB
101. Baltimore: Stefon Diggs, WR
102. Seattle: DeMarcus Lawrence, DE
103. Houston: Tyrann Mathieu, S
104. Minnesota: Harrison Smith, S
105. New Orleans: Philip Rivers, QB
106. New England: Frank Clark, DE
107. Buffalo: Micah Hyde, S
108. Philadelphia: A.J. Brown, WR
109. L.A. Rams: Dante Fowler Jr., DE
110. Chicago: Eddie Jackson, S
111. Pittsburgh: DK Metcalf, WR
112. Dallas: Maxx Crosby, DE
113. Atlanta: Jeff Okudah, CB
114. Denver: Courtland Sutton, WR
115. Tampa Bay: Kenny Golladay, WR
116. Indianapolis: Darius Leonard, ILB
117. Las Vegas: Henry Ruggs III, WR
118. N.Y. Jets: Zack Martin, G
119. Cleveland: Jarvis Landry, WR
120. Jacksonville: Marshon Lattimore, CB
121. Arizona: Patrick Peterson, CB
122. Carolina: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT
123. L.A. Chargers: Brandon Brooks, G
124. Miami: Kevin Byard, S
125. N.Y. Giants: Allen Robinson II, WR
126. Detroit: DJ Moore, WR
127. Washington: Terry McLaurin, WR
128. Cincinnati: Tyler Lockett, WR