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Sports Corner

By: Rob Bishop

Back again, and in a stunning move, tight end Rob Gronkowski came out of retirement and was dealt to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a fourth-round pick. Gronkowski sat out last season after battling injuries for the bulk of his career, but a season as a spectator was enough to entice the future Hall of Famer into a return to the field. Though he is a year removed from game action, Gronkowski is still young enough to be a game-changing talent for Tampa Bay. Alongside arguably the NFL’s top receiving duo of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, Gronkowski should have no trouble finding openings operating as Tom Brady’s go-to option in the middle of the field.

There’s growing speculation that the Atlanta Falcons will be the team most keen on moving up in the first round of the draft. Atlanta likely has its eye on cornerback C.J. Henderson, the consensus second-best man-coverage cornerback in the draft behind likely top-five pick Jeffrey Okudah. However, if Atlanta proves unable to move up to land Henderson, the Falcons can address other needs in the first round while hoping someone like Trevon Diggs, who shined in man coverage in college, slides to the second round. The Falcons could also key in on Troy Pride Jr. in the middle rounds, or Amik Robertson, who has drawn comparisons to former Falcons great Brent Grimes due to his smaller stature and excellent ball skills.

As the rest of the football news surrounds this year’s draft. However, last year’s draft class is also worthy of a re-examination. One of the biggest sliders in the first-round last season was offensive tackle Andre Dillard, who went from being a possible top-ten pick to landing with the Eagles at 22. Dillard saw a little action as a rookie, including a three-game stint while Peters was sidelined, and he is primed for a much larger role in 2020 as he assumes the starting left tackle gig from franchise mainstay Jason Peters. Philadelphia’s offense is built around its offensive line being successful, and Dillard will likely be thrust into arguably the unit’s most important position as a second-year professional.

Another 2019 first-round steal looking at a sizeable role increase as a sophomore is defensive line Jeffery Simmons of the Titans. There was speculation Simmons would have been a top-ten pick prior to suffering a torn ACL, and the Titans were quick to select Simmons at 19. He missed the first six weeks of the season while recovering from the aforementioned knee injury, and he was more of a rotation player during his nine games of action. Now, with Jurrell Casey jettisoned to the Broncos, a larger role is there for Simmons. Pre-injury, Simmons was drawing comparisons to the likes of Fletcher Cox and Chris Jones, two of the NFL’s best players. There’s plenty of reason to be excited about Simmons in 2020.

Cornerback Byron Murphy was arguably the best in the 2019 class, and he slid all the way to the Arizona Cardinals in the second round last year. Murphy’s impact as a rookie was far from great, but he proved to be a more-than-serviceable complement to Patrick Peterson following the star’s return from a six-game suspension. Veteran Robert Alford is expected to man the outside corner spot opposite Peterson this season, freeing Murphy up to be the team’s full-time slot corner. Given his strengths—excellent closing speed, aggressive ball skills—Murphy is a perfect fit for the role, and it won’t be a surprise to see him take a massive step forward in 2020.

Bengals 2019 first-round pick Jonah Williams missed all of last season following shoulder surgery in June. However, there is every reason to believe he’ll be ready to assume his place as a legitimate building block for the rebuilding franchise. Williams split time between left and right tackle during his three years in college, and he will be a massive upgrade for Cincinnati’s talent-starved offensive line in 2020. Plenty of places are citing Cincinnati’s need for help along the offensive line are either forgetting about Williams or dismissing his talent level. Either would be an error. Along with assumed top overall pick Joe Burrow, Williams represents a sizeable talent infusion for Cincinnati.