The first round was chock full of fantasy storylines but that doesn’t mean that they were necessarily the most important fantasy football developments of the 2020 NFL Draft. Who won and lost on the draft’s second and third days?
Joe Burrow, QB, CIN - The Bengals already had a solid top four receivers before they used the 33rd pick on Tee Higgins (Clemson), now they have John Ross and AJ Green injury insurance. The pick makes you wonder if the Bengals intend to sign Green to longer than the one year franchise tag. John Ross is probably in his last year with the Bengals unless he can stay healthy and play with more consistency, so Higgins has a clear path to relevance in year two, and Auden Tate isn’t a loser either because he could be a top three option in this offense along with Higgins as early as next year.
Jarrett Stidham, QB, NE - For now. The Patriots decided to take the first safety off of the board, small school stud Kyle Dugger (Lenoir-Rhyne) at #37 instead of the fifth quarterback, and they passed on quarterback four more times on the second day of the draft. If there was a second tier prospect the Patriots liked as much as Stidham, they certainly would have taken him. We can’t rule out the Patriots signing Cam Newton, Jameis Winston, or Andy Dalton to start, but Stidham has still cleared another hurdle between him and a Week 1 start.
Cleveland Browns - This one goes out to Matt Waldman, as his childhood team got one of his favorite players in the draft, LSU safety Grant Delpit, who plays at probably their weakest position on the roster and should be an instant upgrade and IDP hit. They got Waldman’s #1 tight end Harrison Bryant (Florida Atlantic) in the fourth round, an excellent fit for Kevin Stefanski’s offense. Bryant isn’t exciting for fantasy with Austin Hooper (and David Njoku for now) in Cleveland, but he’s a high floor prospect who should contribute. Sixth-round pick Donovan Peoples-Jones (Michigan) is a high ceiling athletic receiver who some believe was held back by subpar quarterback play.
Drew Lock, QB, DEN - You would have sworn that Lock was calling the shots in the war room as the picks were being announced over all three days. KJ Hamler (WR-Penn State), Albert Okwuegbunam (TE-Missouri), and Lloyd Cushenberry (C-LSU) when added to Jerry Jeudy on the first day give the Broncos an arsenal of speedy targets and reinforced interior offensive line. Hamler is a perfect slot receiver to exploit big openings in the middle of the field because defenses will be stressed by Jeudy and Sutton outside. If that’s not enough, coverages will have to account for the fastest tight end in each of the last two drafts after the Broncos took Fant last year and Okwuegbunam this year. Either multiple Broncos are going to disappoint for fantasy or Lock is going to be one of the breakout fantasy quarterbacks of 2020 under new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
Jonathan Taylor, RB, IND - Taylor gets run in a downhill running game behind a terrific offensive line. Philip Rivers might only be a temporary answer, which could affect Taylor’s long term ceiling, but this landing spot makes Taylor a rational #1 overall rookie pick if you think he’ll follow the Derrick Henry path, and an aspirational reach target in redraft if you think Taylor will overtake Marlon Mack this year. Taylor and fellow second round pick Michael Pittman Jr (WR-USC) are both skilled, polished players who can play right away and upgrade their units. As much as Mack has improved each year and outperformed his draft slot, he is still not in the same stratosphere as Taylor as a runner. Zach Pascal has been an excellent contributor as an undrafted free agent who hung on for a while because of his special teams play, but Pittman’s added size and precocious route running abilities will give Philip Rivers an attractive target outside along with TY Hilton. 2019 second-round pick Parris Campbell fits in the slot and on plays specifically designed to get his speed in play. The Colts offense is strong in both aspects with the foundation of a top-end offensive line.
Dallas Cowboys - Ceedee Lamb fell into the Cowboys laps on the first day. Trevon Diggs (Alabama cornerback) would have been an acceptable pick at 17, Dallas got him at 51. Stefon’s little brother could start this year in a secondary that lost Byron Jones in free agency. Neville Gallimore (DT-Oklahoma) fell to 82 and he should immediately replace the penetration and interior defensive line disruption lost when Maliek Collins joined the Cowboys exodus to Las Vegas during free agency. Cornerback Reggie Robinson (Tulsa), Center Tyler Biadasz (Wisconsin) and EDGE Bradlee Anae (Utah) were all third day picks at positions of need that many draft analysts had in the top 100 picks. The Cowboys will be atop many “best draft” lists and earn strong grades from draft outlets.
Buffalo Bills - The Bills traded their first round pick (and some spare change picks) for Stefon Diggs, but they still got a stout and effective grinder on the defensive line at their pick - 54 - who was in a lot of mock draft first rounds. In the third round at pick 86 they got an effective all-around back in Zack Moss who can complement Devin Singletary perfectly. When you add Diggs in, the Bills have greatly improved their depth and width of skillsets at offensive skill positions and defensive line depth via draft capital. Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott sense that this is their moment with Tom Brady gone to Tampa. Gabriel Davis (UCF) and Isaiah Hodgins (Oregon State) were third day picks who add depth at outside receiver and they have the ball skills and catch radius to help Josh Allen. Some had Jake Fromm (Georgia) as the fifth quarterback off of the board and while his ceiling is probably adequate starter/good backup, the Bills could use that upgrade from Matt Barkley with Allen’s penchant for putting his body at risk as a runner.
Van Jefferson, WR, LAR - Jefferson missed the combine with a foot fracture, but it didn’t seem to affect his draft stock as the Rams still took him in the second round. He’s a reasonable facsimile of Justin Jefferson, the Vikings first round pick, but without quite the top end speed. Jefferson projects as a possible replacement for Cooper Kupp if the Rams don’t want to sign him to a new contract next year and he landed in an offense that is ready made to take advantage of his talents.
New York Jets, Denzel Mims, WR, NYJ - The Jets had fortune smile on them when they were able to still land a top three tackle when Mehki Becton (Louisville) fell to them in the first round. The second and third rounds went just as swimmingly when the Jets traded down, added another third round pick and still landed Mims, a big, fast receiver who can start this year and become the true alpha of the offense with Breshad Perriman only signed to a one-year deal. The pick they got from the Giants for Leonard Williams became Ashtyn Davis, a safety from California who is ultraathletic and should pair wonderfully with Jamal Adams (if the Jets don’t trade him. The Jets ended up turning that extra third from the second round trade down in two fourth round picks and sixth next year. One of those fourths turned into James Morgan (Florida International), a hard-nosed quarterback prospect who was a favorite sleeper of some draft analysts.
Jeremy Chinn, S, CAR, Logan Wilson, LB, CIN, Willie Gay, LB, KC, Ashtyn Davis, S, NYJ, Terrell Lewis, EDGE, LAR, Malik Harrison, LB, BAL, Davion Taylor, LB, PHI, Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, CIN - These names might not matter much to the typical fantasy player, but if you play IDP fantasy football, you should know them. The lack of an offseason could slow their development and arrival, but none of these second and third day picks have significant long term competition to keep them from being IDP factors in the near future. Chinn (Southern Illinois) is an exciting hard-hitting safety, Wilson (Wyoming) is an ultraproductive linebacker with a nose for the ball, Gay (Mississippi State) flies around the field like his hair is on fire, Davis ceiling is as high as any safety in this class, Lewis (Alabama) might be the second best edge rusher in this class if he can stay healthy, Harrison (Ohio State) is an excellent run defender who should be an ideal partner for first-round pick Patrick Queen (LSU), Taylor is hyperathletic and can push for a starting spot in Philadelphia early, and Davis-Gaither (Appalachian State) is light but can project as an everydown linebacker for the Bengals if he isn’t overpowered on Sundays.
Antonio Gibson, WEAPON, WAS, Washington - Gibson wins just because he went at #66 and to a team that hadn’t had a pick since #2 and wouldn’t have another pick on the second day. Washington clearly had Gibson very high on their board and they appear willing to use him as a receiver and a runner. The Memphis WR/RB has had some David Johnson-esque moments and it appears he has landed on a team that will embrace his “get the ball in his hands however you can” talent. Washington was able to land a potential day one starter to help replace Trent Williams in the fourth in Saadiq Charles (LSU) one of 14 2019 national champions to hear their names called during the draft, and then took small school receiver Antonio Gandy-Golden (Liberty) who has a very high ceiling as a size/speed/athleticism prospect who is dangerous after the catch.
Arizona Cardinals - The Cardinals, like Washington, only had one second day pick, and they made it count. After having Isaiah Simmons fall to them at #8, Houston tackle Josh Jones fell all the way to the 72nd pick after many had him going off of the board in the first round as the next tackle gone after the big four. Jones gives the team much better depth at tackle and a possible immediate starter even though they passed on the elite tackles for Simmons. They also made an inspired seventh round pick, keeping RB Eno Benjamin (Arizona State) in the state. Benjamin’s pass-catching skills and all-around game give the Cardinals the third running back they needed to have behind Kenyan Drake and Chase Edmonds at a very cheap price.
Adam Trautman, TE, NO, Devin Asiasi, TE, NE - Neither of Trautman or Asiasi was the first tight end off of the board - that was Notre Dame’s Cole Kmet at 43 - but both have a higher fantasy ceiling. Trautman was a small school size/speed/above the rim whiz at Dayton and Asiasi an athletic, stubborn target just coming into his own at UCLA. Both were targets of trade ups, indicating urgency on behalf of each team to get their target. Both have long term quarterback uncertainty in their futures, but Asiasi only has to overcome Matt Lacosse for playing time and Trautman could get worked in on special package plays with opportunity coming next year when Jared Cook is a free agency. Both are better picks than Kmet in dynasty rookie drafts. The Patriots also traded up for Dalton Keene (Virginia Tech) maybe the most athletic tight end prospect in the draft. Keene and Asiasi are the new bargain version of Gronkowski and Hernandez, with Bill Belichick willing to trade six picks (a 3rd, 3 4ths, a 5th, and a 2021 6th) to get the duo (and pick 159) late in the third round.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, TB, Lamical Perine, RB, NYJ, Anthony McFarland Jr, RB, PIT, Deejay Dallas, RB, SEA - None of these backs have enough talent to be among the best 32 in the NFL or otherwise take over a backfield long-term, but all will have ample opportunity to show just how good they can be in backfields that have some snaps up for grabs and possible vacancies in 2021. Vaughn (Vanderbilt) went in the third and he is a competent pass catcher and hard-nosed runner with some burst. He should share the backfield with Ronald Jones II, although Jones is more dynamic on early downs and Vaughn probably isn’t better than former Buc and current Washington back Peyton Barber. Vaughn’s value went up because of draft capital and landing spot, but others will put him higher than I will in rookie drafts. Perine is the second most talented back on the Jets roster now and Le'Veon Bell should be gone next. The Florida product is a solid all-around back and overachiever. McFarland (Maryland), a fourth round pick, is a speedster who played with Mike Tomlin’s son on the Terrapins football team, adding a needed element in the backfield as the team is looking beyond James Conner’s expiring rookie contract in 2021. Dallas, like Perine is an overachiever, but with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny both coming back from serious injuries, he could get early opportunity and impress in the Seahawks run-first offense. Special teams contributions will assure that Dallas gets his foot in the door and Carson will be a free agent next year while Penny had a multi-ligament tear and might not be the same.
Baltimore Ravens, Devin Duvernay, WR, BAL - The Ravens had a very good second day after a very good first round, adding top running back JK Dobbins (Ohio State), making their cup runneth over with quality running backs, disruption creator Justin Madubuike (Texas A&M) on the defensive line after trading down into the third round (which bumped a fourth to a third, allowing them to take Malik Harrison), and road grading offensive lineman Tyre Phillips, but the most inspired second day pick was Duvernay, yet another speedy wide receiver who is a running back after the catch and a ready, willing, and able blocker. Keep an eye on sixth-round wideout James Proche (SMU), who is one of the best wide receivers in the draft at the catch point. The Ravens addressed most of the spots of weakness on their roster well with their plethora of second day assets.
San Francisco 49ers - The 49ers trade desk cast a spell on the third day of the draft, clearing seven million in cap room, offloading superfluous players Matt Breida (to Miami) and Marquise Goodwin (to Philadelphia), getting a fifth round pick and a bump in the sixth back, which converged when the team gave a 2021 3rd and a fifth this year to Washington for OT Trent Williams, who will replace the retiring (and previously returning) stalwart OT Joe Staley. The offense won’t miss a beat and the team replaced some of the draft capital used to acquire Williams while simultaneously creating cap room for the new contract he will probably require. The 49ers also had one of my favorite seventh-round picks, Tennessee WR Jauan Jennigns, who lacks straight line speed, but loves working the middle of the field and is a load to bring down after the catch. He should overlap nicely with 2019 third-round pick and former college teammate Jalen Hurd. Bravo, John Lynch.
Quintez Cephus, WR, DET, Isaiah Coulter, WR, HOU - Cephus are two five round picks to watch down the line. Cephus (Wisconsin) is a limited straight-line athlete but he is a boss at the catch point and a polished route runner. He could replace Marvin Jones Jr next year, or even before the trade deadline if the Lions aren’t in contention. Coulter (Rhode Island) is oozing athletic upside with size and speed and the Texans wide receiver depth chart is unstable with Brandin Cooks concussion history, Will Fuller V’s injury history and Kenny Stills probably not on the team after 2020 (at the latest).
Jordan Howard, Matt Breida, RB, MIA - Howard almost made it out of the draft with no serious competition, but the Dolphins smartly traded one of their surplus of picks for a running back that can contribute much more in 2020 than the backs available on the third day. The Dolphins did not bit on a first or second day back and will have to pay Breida 3+ million for one year, but Breida is clearly a quality NFL runner and his burst and vision is a good contrast to Howard’s downhill power game. Both are better off after the draft than they were before when you factor in the expectation that the Dolphins would take a back in the first or second round.
Allen Lazard, WR, GB - The Packers had a lot of problems at wide receiver last year and were expected to address this position, maybe more than once in this outstanding class. Instead they took zero wideouts. Lazard appears to be set at the #2 receiver for Aaron Rodgers with no proven receiving tight ends on the roster.
Kerryon Johnson, D’Andre Swift, RB, DET - The Lions are just hellbent on having a two-back approach. Johnson has a bellcow mentality and three down skillset, but the Lions took a similarly well-rounded talent at 35 in D’Andre Swift (Georgia). This creates a backfield with two fantasy relevant backs, but no clear start week-to-week. Swift does have some Johnson injury upside, but he’s not a clearly better talent.
Marlon Mack, RB, IND - Mack’s value cratered as it’ll be an upset if he holds off Jonathan Taylor for early down work. He will be a free agent next year and proved he can run well in the NFL, improving every season of his career, and perhaps the Colts could trade him during the season if a team has a serious injury to a lead back, but the best move in dynasty now is to likely hold him and hope for a good landing spot next year. Avoid Mack in redraft leagues unless he’s falling to the very late rounds.
James Washington, WR, PIT - Washington is a more subtle and skilled outside wide receiver than Chase Claypool, but that doesn’t mean that the Steelers see it that way after spending a second on the size/speed passcatcher from Notre Dame. Claypool is better off in the slot and probably signals the Steelers intentions to let Juju Smith-Schuster go in free agency next year. Diontae Johnson exploded at the end of the season and should be ticketed as the future #1 receiver, with Claypool and Washington duking it out to be the #2 target (and let’s not forget midseason waiver claim Deon Cain) and maybe Eric Ebron in 2021 if he plays well enough to earn a 5.5 million paycheck.
Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson, RB, LAR - The Rams appear to have soured on Henderson after trading up for him in the third round last year. They were reluctant to play him last year and now they used their first in the draft, #52, on excellent all-around back Cam Akers out of Florida State. Brown is workmanlike but better suited to be a backup once Akers is ready, which shouldn’t be long with his strong pass-blocking and receiving skills. Henderson could play himself into a role in the offense, but the dream of being the heir to Todd Gurley is likely over.
Philadelphia Eagles - The Eagles added sorely needed speed at wide receiver in the first round and then on the second and third day they… addressed backup quarterback and added more speed at wide receiver? Jalen Hurts was the perplexing name called at 53, and while the Oklahoma/Alabama quarterback should be a very high floor backup and having one of those won the Super Bowl for the Eagles, it is still a headscratcher with longterm starter upside at lots of positions left on the board. Davion Taylor (Colorado) was their other second day pick and a possible early starter, but then on the third day the Eagles added three more speed receivers, John Hightower (Boise State), Quez Watkins (Southern Mississippi) and Marquise Goodwin (trade with San Francisco). It’s hard to see how more than one or at best two make the team. Getting Prince Tega Wanogho, a developmental tackle from Auburn to replace Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who left for Detroit in free agency, in the sixth round was the team’s best third day pick.
Aaron Jones, RB, GB, Green Bay Packers - It’s hard to see Brian Gutekunst’s plan to take advantage of a Super Bowl window. After taking a backup/quarterback of the future in Round 1, they took a backup/running back of the future in Round 2, and an H-back in Round 3 (Cincinnati’s Josiah DeGuara). Their fourth round pick was used in the trade up for Jordan Love in the first, and somehow the team did not use a pick on a wide receiver in one of the best classes ever even though wide receiver was one of their biggest needs coming into the draft. Dillon has a chance to take over Jones role next year and he’s a quality two-down back, but he projects as a committee back at best in 2021. Jones is probably going to have to rely on the sometimes unpredictable free agent market for running backs to find a job in 2021.
Mark Ingram II, Justice Hill, Gus Edwards, RB, BAL - JK Dobbins falling to the late second into the Ravens clutches is typical draft day luck for Baltimore. It clouds an already crowded backfield and makes 2020 projections much more difficult. Mark Ingram II could retain most if not all of his 2019 role, but Hill is stuck as a change of pace at best and Edwards, while surging and excellent in his downhill bowling ball role, becomes a bit redundant.
Cooper Kupp, WR, Gerald Everett, TE, LAR - Kupp and Everett are both probably fine for their 2020 roles in the Rams offense, but the team taking Florida’s Van Jefferson in the second signals that at least one of them will be allowed to test free agency in 2021 instead of getting an extension from the cap-strapped team. Kupp was already seeing his snap count fall and Everett was overshadowed by Tyler Higbee, so even the extra opportunity from the trade of Brandin Cooks might not ensure that they are consistent fantasy factors this year with Jefferson looming.
Ronald Jones II, RB, TB - It could have been a lot worse for Jones, but even if you’re not a big fan of Ke’Shawn Vaughn, the third round draft capital in a win now window indicates that Vaughn will likely get a shot at Peyton Barber’s vacated snaps and touches, if not more, and Jones probably can not play himself into a bigger or more consistent role than he had last year. Jones is clearly more dynamic than Vaughn and he is as young or younger than many draft prospects at 22, so this could end up being a buy low moment for him.
Tyrell Williams, WR, LVR - If Henry Ruggs III wasn’t enough to lower Williams ceiling in 2020, the Raiders took South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards in the third round, who projects as an excellent replacement if Williams isn’t worth 11.5 million dollars next year. The Raiders also took Lynn Bowden Jr Jr. (Kentucky) in the third round. He’s a slot receiver/quarterback who was announced as a running back in a potentially troubling development for Josh Jacobs.
David Njoku, TE, CLE - It’s difficult to see the Browns picking up Njoku’s fifth-year option now that the team has added Harrison Bryant, a very competent second tight end who can handle a big role in Kevin Stefanski’s two-tight end offense. The question now is whether Njoku is trade bait (along with two other underachieving 2017 first round tight ends Evan Engram and OJ Howard) even though the draft is over without any of them being moved.
Not a Loser
Justin Jackson, RB, LAC - Jackson, like Jordan Howard, made it partway through the draft without any competition being added, but then the Chargers, who had no second and third round pick, used their first of the third day on Joshua Kelley (UCLA), a very strong downhill runner who is a more ideal contrast with Austin Ekeler than Jackson, who will still have a chance to play his way into consistent touches and a role in the backfield, but his outlook is diminished even though it could have been worse if the Chargers hadn’t traded out of the second day and had the option to take a better back.
Devin Singletary, RB, BUF - Some may look at Moss as a torpedo to Singletary’s value since the draft capital invested is similar, and Moss may take the same goal line carries that Frank Gore stole from Singletary last year. Moss is also more than viable on passing downs, but Moss’s lack of burst means he’s not a threat to fully overtake Singletary and the door remains open for Singletary to increase his value and assert his control over this backfield.