NFL Draft

2020 NFL draft: Grades and analysis for all 32 picks in the first round

The first round of the NFL draft is in the books. There were plenty of chalky picks, but more than a few surprises that have come to define draft night every year.

To help make sense of the first round, The Baltimore Sun offers its grade for each of the first 32 selections.


Note: These grades are not entirely about the player, but rather reflect value (both position and pick), team needs, opportunity cost and other team-building factors.

1. Cincinnati Bengals: LSU quarterback Joe Burrow


After the kind of season Burrow had as a senior — 60 touchdown passes, 10.8 yards per attempt, 76.3% completion rate — the Bengals can look forward to building an offense around their franchise quarterback. Burrow might never look as impressive as he did during the Tigers’ national championship run, and he’s already 23, but he has the poise, pocket presence and intelligence to become an above-average starter at the most important position in sports. That’s a win for the Bengals. Grade: A

2. Washington Redskins: Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young

There’s no denying Young’s talent as a pass rusher. He showed elite strength and burst in racking up 16½ sacks last season, and was the kind of player opposing teams had to be aware of at all times. He has the potential to be a perennial All-Pro, and though he doesn’t address some of the Redskins’ biggest needs (cornerback, offensive line, receiver, tight end), he’ll make what’s already a pretty good defensive line even better. Washington could have received a haul of picks by trading down, but it’s safe to say they’ll be happy with this choice for years to come. Grade: A-

3. Detroit Lions: Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah

It would have been nice to see the Lions defense with Okudah and Darius Slay manning the outside corner positions, but at least Detroit has a young talent who has the potential to be a lockdown defender from Day 1. The Lions could have traded down and acquired more picks, but getting a playmaker at such a valuable position is a great way to rebuild a shaky defense. Grade: A

4. New York Giants: Georgia offensive tackle Andrew Thomas

The Giants’ previous two first-round picks were running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones, so it’s only natural that they targeted a player who can help both of those players. Thomas has ideal size and strength and has experience playing both left and right tackle, but he was among the second or third best tackles in this class. Freakishly athletic tackles Tristan Wirfs and Mekhi Becton offer more upside, and versatile defender Isaiah Simmons would have given the Giants the defensive playmaker they sorely need. While it wasn’t likely that general manager Dave Gettleman would trade down, the Giants still missed an opportunity to acquire more picks. Grade: B-

5. Miami Dolphins: Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa


If Tagovailoa can stay healthy, we might look back at this draft and wonder how he fell to the fifth pick. Better yet, the rebuilding Dolphins didn’t need to trade any of their draft picks — including Nos. 18, 26 and 39 — to move up and get their quarterback of choice. As we saw later in the draft, Miami isn’t afraid to take some big swings. But by being patient, they got a quarterback with superstar potential and kept the ammunition needed to restock their roster. Grade: A+

6. Los Angeles Chargers: Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert

Herbert was a polarizing prospect heading into the draft, with a big arm and natural athleticism but inconsistent production and concerns about his abilities to go through his progressions and throw with anticipation. He’s by all accounts an outstanding teammate and has all the tools necessary to become a good pro, but he’ll need a few years of development before he’s ready to take over the starting role. Quarterback is the most valuable position, but with a talented roster and a veteran in place in Tyrod Taylor, the Chargers had a chance to upgrade their offensive line or take an impact defender. This spot was way too early for Herbert. Grade: D+

7. Carolina Panthers: Auburn defensive lineman Derrick Brown

There’s no denying that the Panthers got a good player and even better locker room presence for rookie coach Matt Rhule. Coming into the draft, you’d be hard-pressed to find Brown outside of the top 15 on most big boards. But even with his dominance on the interior, there’s only so much value a run-stuffing nose tackle can provide. If Brown can improve as a pass rusher, he’ll be a star. Grade: C

8. Arizona Cardinals: Clemson defensive weapon Isaiah Simmons


The television broadcast listed Simmons as a linebacker, but that’s misleading. He can play linebacker, sure, but his effectiveness as a slot corner and safety is what sets him apart from the rest of the second- and third-level defenders in this year’s class. The Cardinals passed up an opportunity to select a plug-and-play tackle to protect Kyler Murray, but Simmons’ potential as a positionless defender is worth such an early selection. Grade: A-

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Florida cornerback CJ Henderson

Henderson is one of the best athletes in the draft, so you can’t fault the Jaguars for being enamored of him. He took a step backward in 2019 after an outstanding sophomore season and his unwillingness to get dirty as a tackler is a concern, but he can stick to receivers. He fills a big hole for the Jags, but in a deep cornerback class, this is a bit of a reach. Grade: C+

10. Cleveland Browns: Alabama offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr.

There was speculation that the Browns might not get any of the top four tackles, and yet they somehow might have ended up with the best one. Wills is a mauler in the running game and has the athleticism, discipline and awareness to be an effective pass blocker. The only concern is how he’ll make the transition to left tackle with free-agent acquisition Jack Conklin manning the right side. Grade: A-

11. New York Jets: Louisville offensive tackle Mekhi Becton


The Jets deserve some credit for being disciplined and taking a much-needed tackle with their pick of a loaded wide receiver class staring them in the face. But will they come to regret that? Becton will provide immediate help both protecting quarterback Sam Darnold and opening running lanes for halfback Le’Veon Bell, but he’s still raw. A dynamic receiver such as Jerry Jeudy, CeeDee Lamb or even Henry Ruggs III might have been more beneficial for the offense. Grade: B

12. Las Vegas Raiders: Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III

When life feels stranger than ever because of the coronavirus shutdown, leave it to Jon Gruden and the Raiders to remind us of a simpler time. That time, of course, being when late owner Al Davis took the fastest player available. (Maryland fans, remember Darrius Heyward-Bey?) Ruggs’ sub-4.3 speed will be a welcome addition to the offense, but there’s a good case to be made he wasn’t even the third-best receiver on his own college team, let alone this draft class. The Raiders needed a receiver, but Lamb or Jeudy should have been the pick. Grade: C+

13. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (via 49ers): Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs

Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and the Buccaneers filled their last remaining hole on offense, and all it cost was a fourth-round pick to move up one spot. Wirfs was talked about as a potential top-five pick, so to get him outside the top 10 is a steal for Tampa Bay. He tested as one of the most explosive offensive linemen ever at the scouting combine and offers versatility as a guard or tackle. This offseason will be one to remember for the Bucs. Grade: A+

14. San Francisco 49ers (via Buccaneers): South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw


With the pick the 49ers acquired from the Colts in the DeForest Buckner trade, San Francisco drafted a younger, cheaper version. Adding Kinlaw, an athletic interior disrupter with pass-rushing upside, to a line that features Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and Dee Ford is just unfair. It was strange to see the 49ers pass on Lamb and Jeudy, but they addressed wide receiver later in the first round. Grade: A-

15. Denver Broncos: Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy

Broncos general manager John Elway couldn’t stop smiling on the broadcast after making this pick, and it’s easy to see why. A polished route runner with elite speed and elusiveness, Jeudy will be a great complement to rugged, big-bodied Pro Bowl receiver Courtland Sutton. Now we get to see if quarterback Drew Lock can take advantage. Grade: A

16. Atlanta Falcons: Clemson cornerback A.J. Terrell

This was the first big surprise of the first round. While Terrell received some late first-round buzz, nobody expected him to be picked in the top 20. The Falcons desperately needed cornerback help, but they could have traded down and still taken Terrell or a better corner such as LSU’s Kristian Fulton or TCU’s Jeff Gladney. An athletic pass rusher such as K’lavon Chaisson, a sideline-to-sideline linebacker like Patrick Queen or Kenneth Murray, or even a game-breaking receiver such as CeeDee Lamb offered much more value. Grade: D-

17. Dallas Cowboys: Oklahoma wide receiver CeeDee Lamb


The Cowboys should consider paying quarterback Dak Prescott now, because after a full season with Lamb, Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup, his reported $40 million per year asking price is going to be even higher. The Cowboys have needs in the secondary and on the defensive line, and they’ll need to find a replacement for retired center Travis Frederick, but they deserve high marks for making the obvious pick and taking the best player available. Grade: A+

18. Miami Dolphins (via Steelers): USC offensive tackle Austin Jackson

There’s a lot to like about Jackson, especially because he’s among the youngest players in the draft at age 20. He also fills an immediate need at tackle, which becomes vitally important now that the line is tasked with protecting top-five pick Tagovailoa. But he received a second-round grade from most analysts after some middling college performances. The ceiling is high, but this might be too big of a risk at this spot. Grade: C

19. Las Vegas Raiders (via Bears): Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette

This was another head-scratcher, considering that Arnette was projected to be a Day 2 prospect. If the Raiders really wanted to draft a cornerback, they should have considered trading down. Arnette can be a solid contributor at a position of need, but Raiders fans were probably expecting more with the pick acquired in the Khalil Mack trade. Grade: C-

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (via Rams): LSU edge rusher K’lavon Chaisson


With Yannick Ngakoue likely out the door, the Jaguars decided to draft his potential replacement. Chaisson has the speed, bend and athleticism to be an impactful edge rusher, but he has a lot of work to do before turning those high-end traits into production. The payoff could be big, but it’s going to take effective coaching and some patience. Grade: C+

21. Philadelphia Eagles: TCU wide receiver Jalen Reagor

Seeing the Eagles pass on Justin Jefferson, who was heavily linked to Philadelphia in mock drafts, was a surprise, but it was obvious that the Eagles needed help at receiver. Reagor is far from a finished product as a route runner, but he’s explosive with the ball in his hands and adds a vertical element to the passing game that the team desperately needed. Grade: B+

22. Minnesota Vikings: LSU wide receiver Justin Jefferson

With the pick the Vikings acquired from the Bills in the Stefon Diggs trade, they end up taking his successor. With savvy moves as a route runner and an elite ability to win contested catches, Jefferson offers plenty of upside. But how his game translates to the outside in the NFL is a mystery, and his skills might overlap too much with current slot receiver Adam Thielen. Grade: B

23. Los Angeles Chargers (via Patriots): Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray


Murray is a fine choice at the end of the first round, especially for a Chargers team that will not ask too much from him in the middle of its defense. But giving up second- and third-round picks to make this selection is a reach, considering Murray doesn’t offer the instincts or coverage ability of a linebacker like Patrick Queen. Grade: C-

24. New Orleans Saints: Michigan center/guard Cesar Ruiz

Ruiz was the consensus top interior lineman in this class, so getting him at No. 24 is good value. The problem for the Saints, however, is that they might not have an immediate opening for him, especially after drafting a center in the second round last year. With few holes on the roster, the Saints had a chance to take a big swing or even invest in a quarterback of the future like Jordan Love. Grade: B

25. San Francisco 49ers (via Vikings): Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk

If anyone is going to get the most out of their first-round wide receiver, it’s coach Kyle Shanahan. That said, Aiyuk is coming off core muscle surgery and has a limited route tree. He also struggled to separate from press coverage at times. There’s no question he’s dynamic with the ball in his hands, but the 49ers could have used a more technically proficient receiver to replace Emmanuel Sanders. Grade: B

26. Green Bay Packers (via Dolphins): Utah State quarterback Jordan Love


This pick is a tricky evaluation. On one hand, taking a chance on a talented quarterback, even with a future Hall of Famer already on the roster, is a worthwhile endeavor. But the Packers are coming off an NFC title game appearance with glaring holes on their roster at linebacker and receiver, and some good players were still available at those positions. Aaron Rodgers is 36 and has shown signs of decline, but he’s under contract through 2023. It feels like this could be the Tom Brady-Jimmy Garoppolo situation all over again, with the Packers eventually forced to trade Love. Grade: C

27. Seattle Seahawks: Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks

Taking a linebacker here would be understandable … if it was Patrick Queen. Brooks received almost no first-round grades from analysts, and in Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator, just one person took Brooks at No. 27 through thousands of simulations. He can be an effective player in Seattle’s defense with his downhill style, but he’s limited in coverage, an essential skill for modern-day linebackers. Grade: D-

28. Baltimore Ravens: LSU linebacker Patrick Queen

Speaking of modern-day linebackers. That Queen slid all the way to the Ravens, and that Baltimore didn’t have to part with any of its second-, third- or fourth-round picks to get him, makes a great team even better. The Ravens snagged an athletic playmaker at a key position of need who fits their scheme while keeping themselves in play for a receiver and interior lineman on Day 2. With Queen in tow, the Ravens could also take some chances on some high-upside prospects. Grade: A+

29. Tennessee Titans: Georgia offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson


This feels like the most forgettable pick of the first round, and that’s not a knock against Wilson. He’s a bruiser who can help replace right tackle Jack Conklin, and has the size and strength to become an elite player. But even after Wilson received some first-round buzz this week, the Titans are banking more on his upside than his current level of play. He was considered a mid to late Day 2 prospect, so this is definitely a reach for a team that could catch the Ravens and Chiefs with the right moves. Grade: C

30. Miami Dolphins (via Packers): Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene

You can question whether Igbinoghene, a former receiver with only two years of starting experience at corner, is the right player, but he’s certainly a smart pick. The Dolphins have invested heavily in their secondary, and if the Ravens are any model, that’s a good way to build a successful defense these days. Grade: B+

31. Minnesota Vikings (via 49ers): TCU cornerback Jeff Gladney

Gladney is a cornerback who some deemed worthy of a top-20 pick, so there’s no quibbling with the value here, especially after trading down. He also fills a position of need after the Vikings lost their top three corners from a season ago. Grade: A-

32. Kansas City Chiefs: LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire


We almost made it through a whole first round without a running back, but the Chiefs couldn’t help themselves. Edwards-Helaire is a slippery runner and one of the best pass-catching backs in this class, but after the Chiefs won the Super Bowl with Damien Williams and LeSean McCoy, it’s not as if running back was a glaring need. A cornerback, linebacker or a possible replacement for franchise-tagged defensive lineman Chris Jones would have been more valuable selections, but this offense will continue to be enjoyable. Grade: C+