2020 NFL Draft Report Card Report
I can't believe how good it feels to be talking sports again. In the uncertain times we currently live in, we've all needed a distraction at some point during this long stretch. The NFL did its best to be that distraction for a lot of people. They refused to push back dates for free agency and the draft, instead choosing to take center stage in the sports world. For me, the NFL draft acted as a guiding beacon that helped me navigate these sports-free stormy seas. The fully digitized draft went off without a hitch, despite what we all envisioned (or hoped) would happen. Instead of hackers and Dave Gettleman technical difficulties, we were treated to little peeks into homes of NFL coaches. Audiences across the nation were treated to an oddly casual Roger Goodell, Kliff Kingsbury's Arizona abode, and even the first draft pick made by a dog! I figure Nike has picked up a pointer or two from Bill Belichick's film sessions.
Now that we are a few days removed from the process, the experts have weighed in. We've done the heavy lifting for you: we've consolidated draft grades from the most prominent sports sources and football minds all in one place. Today, we'll break down the consensus best, worst, and most polarizing draft classes of 2020. This is … the 2020 Draft Report Card Report.
As always, let's go through our panel of football minds. We always try to make this as all-encompassing as we can, which is why we've added a handful of new graders. This year's list now includes Luke Easterling from DraftWire (a subsidiary of USA Today), Darryl Slater from NJ.com, Ryan Dunleavy from the New York Post, Mike Tagliere from Fantasy Pros, and the staff from Pro Football Focus.
On top of the new additions, we've also had some minor change-ups. Evan Silva's draft grades this year were published on Establish the Run, which means that our new Rotoworld grader is Hayden Winks. Bleacher Report has once again changed their grader, with this year's being Jake Rill. Those new graders (or old graders in new places) join our usual cast of characters:
- Mel Kiper (ESPN+)
- Mark Maske (Washington Post)
- Nate Davis (USA Today)
- Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News)
- Eric Edholm (Yahoo! Sports)
- Chad Reuter (NFL.com)
- Jake Rill (Bleacher Report)
- Evan Silva, Establish the Run (AFC) (NFC)
- Dan Kadar (SBNation)
- Andy Benoit (Sports Illustrated)
- Pete Prisco (CBS Sports)
- Luke Easterling (draftWire)
- Darryl Slater (NJ.com)
- Hayden Winks, Rotoworld (AFC) (NFC)
- Pro Football Focus Staff (PFF)
- Ryan Dunleavy (New York Post)
- Mike Tagliere (Fantasy Pros)
- Last but not least, our old pal Doug Farrar (USA Today)
Highest Draft Grades
1. Dallas Cowboys
Highest Grade: A+ (8 total)
Lowest Grade: B- (Kadar)
Considering this is being released in the days following the draft, you already know that people loved the Cowboys draft class. Let me just put into perspective just how much they love this class: through the entirety of the 2019 Report Card Report, a total of five A+ grades were given out. The 2020 Cowboys got EIGHT on their own. Even dropping A+ grades from those who are new to the Report Card Report this year, Dallas still received as many A+'s as were handed out all of last year. This is the highest consensus grade any team has gotten since 2015, when the Jacksonville Jaguars got a 3.86 GPA for drafting edge rusher Dante Fowler, running back T.J. Yeldon, and guard A.J. Cann.
The conversation surrounding this massive success begins with Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, touted by some graders as the best receiver in a historically great receiver draft. The lone critic of the Lamb pick amongst our evaluators, Dan Kadar, at least gave good reason: "It just doesn't make sense to draft a No. 2 wide receiver with the 17th pick when the team had so many glaring needs on defense." The Cowboys would address defense in Day 2; according to PFF, both Alabama corner Trevon Diggs and Oklahoma defensive tackle Neville Gallimore were just as big of steals as Lamb was. If you believe the NFL draft is just about holding as many lottery tickets as possibly waiting for a prospect to hit, then there's a reasonable chance that Dallas hit the lottery thrice over this past weekend.
2. Minnesota Vikings
Highest Grade: A+ (Iyer)
Lowest Grade: B+ (5 total)
While they didn't have the highest GPA, Minnesota's dirt-low standard deviation of 0.332 tells us that this is at least the most agreed-upon draft class this year. The Vikings smoothly maneuvered their way around this draft, eventually landing a total of 15 players after an offseason that saw so many iconic faces depart, including Xavier Rhodes, Stefon Diggs, and Trae Waynes. Vinnie Iyer, who ranked Minnesota as his best overall draft, touted LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson and Mississippi State cornerback Cam Dantzler: the replacements for Diggs and Rhodes, respectively. It's kind of hard not to address positions of need when you draft 15 players, but the Vikings really made the most of all their picks. Minnesota was able to draft for both offense and defense, picking up immediate impact guys while also generating depth, and even managed to make a few steals along the way. That's how you build a team long-term. This was a masterclass in draft-onomics and resource management.
3. Arizona Cardinals
Highest Grade: A+ (PFF, Farrar)
Lowest Grade: B (Kiper, Maske)
Despite slipping down a spot from No. 2 in our 2019 Report Card Report's grades, Arizona's overall GPA is higher than last year's. While last year's draft saw the Cardinals kick things off with a high-flying quarterback in Kyler Murray, I'm not sure what position you could even consider Clemson's Isaiah Simmons to be. Mocked as a top-five pick throughout most of the pre-draft process, Simmons played 100-plus snaps in 2019 at linebacker, strong safety, free safety, slot cornerback, and edge defender according to PFF. You can drop this guy back into coverage with Patrick Peterson or rush him on the opposite end of Chandler Jones. That kind of true versatility is insanely rare, and it fell into the Cardinals' laps at No. 8 overall.
Houston tackle Josh Jones will fill the team's need on their offensive line. Part of Kiper's B grade has to do with the fact that the Cardinals didn't address the offensive line enough, taking Simmons over Jedrick Wills Jr. or Mekhi Becton. However, others saw Jones as someone who slid way, way deeper than his skill would otherwise suggest. He should be plenty capable of providing Murray with the protection he needs to throw to DeAndre Hopkins. Including the receiver in this draft class, Kyler and Kliff are going to have a lot more fun in Year 2 together.
4. Baltimore Ravens
Highest Grade: A+ (Iyer, Rill)
Lowest Grade: B- (Silva, Tagliere)
So the Ravens defense is just going to be great forever, huh?
A lot of graders have praised the selections of linebackers Patrick Queen and Malik Harrison, addressing one of the biggest weaknesses in last year's defense. Queen is an athletic specimen who can make plays in coverage, while Malik Harrison is a downhill blitzer. The addition of run-stuffing interior defensive lineman Justin Madubuike out of Texas A&M makes this front seven a potentially formidable one.
For a team that lit up NFL defenses last year, the Baltimore offense is actually where you start to run into disagreements among graders. Some consider Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins to be a steal falling into the second round, but some see it as a redundancy when both he and Mark Ingram command the ball so heavily. Others look to the wide receiver group, where they debate whether the two pass-catchers selected in the third and sixth rounds were enough in such a talent-heavy draft.
5. Cincinnati Bengals
Highest Grade: A+ (Iyer)
Lowest Grade: C+ (Silva)
It's usually understood that the team that gets "their guy" at quarterback usually "wins" the draft. For a lot of people evaluating the Bengals, their praise goes beyond the simple drafting of Joe Burrow. Kicking off Day 2 of the draft by taking Tee Higgins turns the Cincinnati wide receiver corps into potentially one of the best in the league, putting the Clemson star alongside A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, and John Ross. The selection of two linebackers in Logan Wilson and Akeem Davis, in the eyes of Iyer, "[turns] their linebacker weakness into a rangy, playmaking strength."
Evan Silva stamped a C+ on their draft class because of everything outside of Burrow. Silva believed the Bengals had way more concerns to address, namely offensive line, before they needed to draft another wide receiver, especially one with disappointing measurables.
Lowest Draft Grades
1. Green Bay Packers
Highest Grade: B- (Benoit)
Lowest Grade: F (Silva, Winks, Tagliere)
In all my years of following the draft and reading grades, I've never seen a draft class universally panned quite like the Packers' this year. Their GPA is two-thirds of a grade lower than the next-lowest team. Whether or not you believe last year's 13-3 season was an anomaly, this is still a good football team. This is still a team that finished a game shy of a Super Bowl berth. You still have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback without much of a receiving corps outside of Davante Adams. The Packers went into this draft with a handful of positions of concern, and it just so happens that this draft was flush with elite talent at each of those positions. So how do you address those needs? You…
- Trade up in the first round to draft a quarterback who may not see the field until 2022.
- Draft a running back with over 900 carries already under his belt.
- Don't address defense until Day 3.
- Replenish your offensive line full of injury concerns with offensive linemen ... with injury concerns.
- Never address the receiver or offensive tackle positions, your two strongest positions of need.
If Jordan Love is meant to be the spark that lights a fire under Rodgers, sending the team on a run à la Tom Brady and the post-Garoppolo Patriots, so be it. But that's not a tangible thing people can factor into their draft grades. This team, from a roster standpoint, did next to nothing to get better on draft night.
2. Houston Texans
Highest Grade: B+ (Reuter, Slater)
Lowest Grade: F (Davis)
Nate Davis put it best: "Hard to recall a draft so extensively leveraged to obtain veterans." This is the beginning of Bill O'Brien paying up for his manic, Madden-esque trades. If you can consider the likes of Laremy Tunsil, Brandin Cooks, Gareon Conley, and Duke Johnson a part of this draft class, then maybe it's easier to swallow. However, you then also have to consider that O'Brien essentially traded DeAndre Hopkins for TCU defensive tackle Ross Blacklock.
Looking at the players alone, this a pretty middling draft for the Texans. They addressed their areas of need on the defensive side of the ball and added a 6-foot-8 lineman. That doesn't absolve O'Brien of any of his trade sins. Oh, but congratulations are in order: the Texans finished with a GPA one one-hundredth of a point lower than last year's draft!
3. Seattle Seahawks
Highest Grade: B (Kiper, Reuter, Benoit)
Lowest Grade: F (Winks)
Seattle seems to scout players very differently from the rest of the NFL, and yet no one seems to ever remember that. They finished dead last in our Report Card Report in 2011, when they selected Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Byron Maxwell, James Carpenter, and Malcolm Smith. Pete Carroll, John Schneider, and the Seahawks scouting department just evaluate talent differently than most other teams in the league. It's why I can't feel 100% comfortable referring to any of their picks as true "reaches."
Yet, that's where we seem to get the vast majority of our vitriol in these draft reports. Tennessee edge rusher Darrell Taylor and LSU guard Damien Lewis seem to be the two most referenced as reaches, with some graders arguing that the picks used to trade up in Round 2 could have easily been used to net both these players. Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks is also a point of contention for people. Some, like Mel Kiper, argue that Brooks is a sideline-to-sideline "tackle machine" meant to provide some youth in a linebacker corps led by Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright. Others, like Hayden Winks, believe that Seattle's run-first mindset is outdated in this NFL, suggesting that someone like LSU's Patrick Queen would have been a much better selection.
4. Las Vegas Raiders
Highest Grade: A- (Farrar)
Lowest Grade: D (Rill, Dunleavy)
While the Raiders just barely miss the cut for our Most Polarizing list, people clearly have an opinion on the Raiders' selections. Alabama's Henry Ruggs III, the first wide receiver off the board in a draft stuffed top to bottom with talent at the position, gives quarterback Derek Carr his first wideout with the ability to really stretch the field. On a board full of receivers, however, some graders saw Ruggs as a reach just because they didn't see him as the best receiver in this class. What everyone can seemingly agree on is that their second first-rounder, Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette, was undeniably a reach; some observers had the 19t -overall pick with a grade as low as the third round. Several teams allegedly had Arnette off their board altogether due to off-the-field concerns.
Doug Farrar, on the other hand, sees this as a return to the Raiders of old. Farrar likens Arnette, along with fourth-round cornerback Amik Robertson, to the bullying alpha dogs of old Al Davis teams. Ruggs is also seen as a throwback to the "Warren Wells and Cliff Branch days." If this is about bringing the old Raiders culture with them to a new city, then maybe it was a successful draft after all.
5. Atlanta Falcons
Highest Grade: B+ (Benoit, Reuter)
Lowest Grade: D- (Silva)
Joining the Texans with back-to-back bottom-five grades, the Falcons can at least take pride in addressing needs. The gripe comes from the players they chose to address those needs with. Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell was the first real surprise pick of the draft, just because few people expected him to be the third corner taken off the board. In fact, Sports Info Solutions had Terrell listed as their 15th-best cornerback in the draft. Silva referred to it as a "needs-based reach," with the Falcons bypassing real talent on the board just to fill a hole in their defense. Auburn defensive end Marlon Davidson was drafted to address a need for an edge rusher, hopefully enabling Takk McKinley to move inside. The only problem with that logic, for some, is that Davidson is north of 300 pounds, sitting just in between defensive end and defensive tackle.
While the rest of their draft picks seem to be depth additions at their respective positions, Temple center Matt Hennessy is being touted by some as the heir apparent to Alex Mack's starting job. The 34-year-old will finish his contract at the end of this season, already showing signs of decline. Those who are truly down on the Falcons draft class see Hennessy as the only pick with actual upside.
Most Polarizing Grades
1. Houston Texans
Highest Grade: B+ (Reuter, Slater)
Lowest Grade: F (Davis)
The biggest thing that can explain this standard deviation is the discrepancy as to whether or not trades and the players acquired with them should be considered a part of a draft class. The Texans used draft capital to acquire veteran players and also used veterans to acquire draft picks. Should Tunsil and Cooks both be considered a part of this class? If they should be, how do you judge the Tunsil-for-two-firsts trade while Trent Williams was acquired for a fifth-rounder? There's such a wide variance for this Texans draft class because no one really knows what to judge.
2. Los Angeles Rams
Highest Grade: A (Reuter, Benoit)
Lowest Grade: D (Winks)
Like the Texans, the Rams were left without a first-round pick after trading for Jalen Ramsay. While this throws a wrench into the subjective grading of Los Angeles' draft, their high standard deviation can be derived from who the Rams got and what their needs were. Chad Reuter believes that, essentially, the Rams' first five picks in the draft can all be legitimate contributors. Running back Cam Akers can fill the Todd Gurley-shaped hole in the team's run game while wide receiver Van Jefferson and tight end Brycen Hopkins can provide a spark for the passing game. Reuter also considers Alabama linebacker Terrell Lewis and Utah safety Terrell Burgess to be great value selections to add to an already solid defense. Winks, on the other hand, believes that the Rams' biggest concern by far was their offensive line. In his eyes, it doesn't matter how good Akers or Van Jefferson are. If Banks can't find a hole or if Jared Goff is running for his life unable to throw downfield, what value are those guys?
3. Los Angeles Chargers
Highest Grade: A (Reuter, Easterling)
Lowest Grade: D (Winks)
Considering the Chargers' draft revolves solely around two first-round selections and a handful of Day 3 picks, I'd say the variance in grade is because of the former. The Chargers were in the bottom half of our Report Card Report when ranking by GPA, and I'm almost positive they would have graced our bottom-five if the smokescreens around Miami and Justin Herbert turned out to be anything substantial. Since the Chargers stayed pat and selected their guy, it is mostly up to whether you believe Herbert can be a solid starting quarterback.
Their other first-round pick, Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray, has drawn some ire because of the trade-up and the string of linebackers that went after him. Trading some sizeable draft capital in order to take Murray, only to have Brooks and Queen taken shortly after, just seems as though Murray is destined to be compared to the other two. A lot of these graders openly prefer Queen to Murray, but some believe that he can certainly still be a good linebacker.
4. Atlanta Falcons
Highest Grade: B+ (Reuter, Benoit)
Lowest Grade: D- (Silva)
Again, we've touched on Atlanta already. It seems as though the wide variance in grade for this Falcons team seems to mostly just be different degrees of sucking. It comes down to how low are you really on A.J. Terrell. If you think he can be a serviceable corner, as some graders do, that along with the addressing of needs is enough to earn you a B or B+. If you're low enough on Terrell that you think he should barely be drafted on Day 2, let alone 13th overall, the grade tanks.
5. Philadelphia Eagles
Highest Grade: A- (Reuter, PFF)
Lowest Grade: D (Davis, Farrar)
Jalen Hurts. That's it, that's the comment.
The most contrasting grades for the Eagles in this Report Card cycle either praise or lambast the selection of Oklahoma quarterback Jalen Hurts with the 53rd overall pick. Because it was so out of the blue, many people began theorizing the rationale behind it. Immediately Taysom Hill comparisons arise, but you can't have the value of Taysom Hill by drafting him in the second round. The whole allure of Taysom Hill is the fact that he was an undrafted free agent. His value was his versatility and output relative to the resources used to acquire him. You can't get that same value with a guy taken in the second round.
The next bullet point becomes Carson Wentz's injury history and the immaculate Super Bowl run of Nick Foles. At the very least, the Eagles have locked in a high-floor backup quarterback to slide onto the field in the event Wentz goes down long-term again. Detractors will argue that the value is too high for a backup quarterback. For a team within striking distance of an NFC playoff berth, that selection doesn't immediately help Philadelphia. Even in the case of Green Bay's dismal draft, Jordan Love is at least being groomed for some larger role. Becoming a "quarterback factory" might be a good way to accrue future draft picks, but it could cost them in the short term.
|2020 NFL Draft Grades|
|DAL||A+ (8 tied)||B- (Kadar)||3.85||1||0.501||24|
|MIN||A+ (Iyer)||B+ (4 tied)||3.77||2||0.332||32|
|ARI||A+ (PFF, Farrar)||B (Kiper, Maske)||3.72||3||0.399||31|
|BAL||A+ (Iyer, Rill)||C- (Silva, Tagliere)||3.66||4||0.527||20|
|CIN||A (6 tied)||B (Farrar)||3.64||5||0.487||26|
|DEN||A+ (PFF)||C+ (Kiper)||3.55||6||0.518||22|
|CLE||A+ (PFF)||B- (Prisco)||3.49||7||0.418||29|
|TB||A (3 tied)||B- (Prisco)||3.41||8||0.423||28|
|NYJ||A+ (Farrar)||B- (Edholm)||3.38||9||0.430||27|
|JAX||A (3 tied)||C+ (Davis)||3.27||10||0.617||13|
|MIA||A (3 tied)||C (Davis)||3.26||11||0.530||19|
|CAR||A (Prisco, Iyer)||C+ (Edholm)||3.16||12||0.417||30|
|IND||A (Davis)||C (Easterling)||3.10||13||0.609||14|
|BUF||A (3 tied)||C- (Tagliere)||3.07||14||0.609||15|
|DET||A (4 tied)||D (Winks)||3.05||15||0.807||6|
|SF||A (Maske)||B- (Easterling)||2.98||16||0.523||21|
|NYG||A (Iyer, PFF)||C+ (3 tied)||2.97||17||0.509||23|
|WAS||A- (3 tied)||D- (Silva)||2.96||18||0.733||9|
|TEN||A (Iyer)||D+ (Davis)||2.91||19||0.712||11|
|NO||A- (Reuter, Winks)||C- (Silva)||2.76||20||0.536||18|
|KC||A (Farrar)||C (Silva, Tagliere)||2.74||21||0.491||25|
|PIT||A- (Davis, Reuter)||D (Tagliere)||2.66||22||0.671||12|
|LAC||A (Edholm, Easterling)||D (Winks)||2.61||23||0.847||3|
|LAR||A (Reuter, Benoit)||D (Winks)||2.53||24||0.853||2|
|NE||B+ (Iyer)||D- (Tagliere)||2.43||25||0.590||16|
|CHI||B+ (PFF, Reuter)||D+ (Tagliere)||2.28||26||0.573||17|
|PHI||A- (PFF, Reuter)||D (Davis, Farrar)||2.28||27||0.838||5|
|ATL||B+ (Reuter, Benoit)||D- (Silva)||2.27||28||0.843||4|
|LV||A- (Farrar)||D (Rill, Dunleavy)||2.26||29||0.719||10|
|SEA||B (Reuter)||F (Winks)||2.05||30||0.762||8|
|HOU||B+ (Reuter, Slater)||F (Davis)||1.97||31||0.880||1|
|GB||B- (Benoit)||F (4 tied)||1.22||32||0.800||7|
First, the sheer amount of extreme grades that were given out in this year's batch of Report Cards must be noted. Last year's Report Card Report contained five A+ grades and zero F grades, This year saw a whopping 13 A+'s and five F's. The average GPA saw a small bump up to 2.91, compared to 2.88 from last year and 2.87 the year prior.
Graders were slightly more widely varied than last year's assessments. This year's average standard deviation rose to 0.80, rising by nearly a full tenth from last year's mark of 0.72. The ever-generous Chris Reuter, the most-generous grader two years running, continues his reign, but has dropped off slightly. Reuter decreased his average GPA by one one-hundredth, down to 3.54. He also matched his balmy total of 11 A grades assigned. Reuters' average GPA was nearly a full half-point higher than the next most generous grader, Sporting News' Vinnie Iyer. Iyer's generosity has forced him to give up his reigning "stingiest grader" crown, now held by Fantasy Pros' Mike Tagliere. USA Today's Nate Davis once again boasts the largest standard deviation at 1.1. I'm not sure if it was the skill in the draft, the lack of sports, or the simple need for sportswriters to fire off some takes, but this was one of the more erratically graded drafts. Extreme highs and lows on both sides.
|2020 NFL Draft Graders|
|Reuter||A (11 total)||C+ (GB)||3.54||0.50|
|Iyer||A+ (BAL)||D (GB)||3.18||0.62|
|PFF||A+ (4 total)||F (GB)||3.18||1.01|
|Benoit||A+ (DAL)||C (PHI)||3.13||0.89|
|Easterling||A+ (DAL)||D (GB)||3.12||0.67|
|Farrar||A+ (DAL NYJ)||D- (GB)||3.05||0.42|
|Slater||A- (7 total)||D+ (GB, PHI)||3.04||0.97|
|Kadar||A (3 tied)||D (GB)||2.97||0.99|
|Maske||A (MIA, SF)||D (GB)||2.88||0.65|
|Prisco||A (4 total)||D (GB)||2.88||0.62|
|Dunleavy||A+ (DAL)||D (HOU, LV)||2.86||0.67|
|Kiper||A (BAL)||C (ATL, GB)||2.84||0.82|
|Rill||A+ (BAL, DAL)||D (ATL, LV)||2.79||0.69|
|Edholm||A (3 total)||C- (HOU)||2.75||0.92|
|Davis||A (3 total)||F (HOU)||2.73||1.10|
|Winks||A (CIN, CLE)||F (GB, SEA)||2.58||0.87|
|Silva||A+ (DAL)||F (GB)||2.45||0.96|
|Tagliere||A (4 total)||F (GB)||2.45||1.08|