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Sports Corner

By: Rob Bishop

Back again, and for all the suspense and rumors circulating heading into the opening night of the 2020 NFL Draft, the actual event was fairly light on shocks and surprises. There was a run on unexpected picks late on Thursday night, and the Raiders once again made moves that defy logic, but for the most part teams made solid moves to address glaring roster holes.

Opening up the draft was the assumed selection, as LSU quarterback Joe Burrow landed with the Cincinnati Bengals. Burrow is nearly a finished product ready to start Week 1, and there is little question he will translate into being a capable—if not superstar—starting quarterback in the NFL. There was rumor the Dolphins were lobbying hard to move up to take Burrow, but the Bengals stood pat atop the draft and landed a franchise building block.

Next off the board was edge rusher Chase Young of Ohio State. Like Burrow, Young will be ready to assume his place along the defensive line for the Washington Redskins in Week 1. He’s arguably the best prospect along the defensive edge in years, which his lofty praise considering the amazing starts to the careers of the Bosa brothers. Washington still has plenty of holes to address on its roster, but Young will join low-key star interior lineman Matt Ioanndis and last year’s first round selection Montez Sweat in causing havoc in the backfield of the Redskins’ opponents.

Despite likely efforts to trade down a few spots in the draft, the Lions stayed at selection three and added the draft’s top cornerback, Jeffrey Okudah of Ohio State. Okudah is incredibly versatile for a college corner, capable of shining within a zone and man-to-man scheme, making him a near lock to at least be a good player. The Lions will hope he evolves into a shutdown corner in time, but as a rookie, he’ll be vital to the team’s hopes of contending in the NFC North. Okudah will likely be starting opposite Desmond Trufant in Week 1.

Offensive tackle Andrew Thomas was next off the board. Though the University of Georgia product lacks tools that scream athleticism, like Okudah, Thomas does something rare for college stars. Thomas is excellent in pass protection and in run blocking, setting him up to be a major piece for the New York Giants from the start of the 2020. This was an absolutely loaded class of tackles, and Thomas’s production in college and readily-translatable skill-set earned him his place as the first off the board.

Rounding out the top five picks was quarterback Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama, who went to the Miami Dolphins. This was a massive win for Miami, as the franchise had flirted with moving up in the draft in an effort to secure Tagovailoa. Instead, he slides to the them at five, gifting Miami a potential franchise quarterback without forcing the franchise to sacrifice future draft capital. Injuries are the only concern here. Otherwise, Tagovailoa will be a star. He is accurate, boasts incredible pocket presence, and unlike many young quarterbacks, has sound decision making. The rest of Miami’s first round was loaded with head-scratchers, but this move was a masterpiece of not over-thinking things and outright good fortune.

And then there is the next selection, which saw the Los Angeles Chargers do the exact opposite of Miami. Rather than waiting on a quarterback—or doing the smart thing and signing a veteran such as Cam Newton or Jameis Winston—the Chargers over-draft Justin Herbert of Oregon. Herbert has a huge arm, but he is a project at quarterback that will take time to refine. That is not a good fit for the Chargers, as the team boasts a roster ready to win now and selecting at pick six presented the opportunity to add a player capable of propelling the team toward that goal. Instead, the Chargers took the first huge risk of the draft, and even if it pays off in the long-term, in the short-term, L.A. may have squandered a chance at winning big in 2020.

With the NFL Draft the only show in town for the foreseeable future, there will be plenty—PLENTY—more on it in the coming days. As for the festivities, the second round begins tonight with plenty personal favorites still on the board. Edge rusher A.J. Epenesa, interior defensive lineman Jordan Elliott, cornerback Kristian Fulton, offensive tackle Ezra Cleveland, and running back Zack Moss are a few of the names on the top of my to-follow list heading into the remainder of the draft. The fun resumes tonight.