The final piece of the 2020 Draft Puzzle fell into place a couple of days ago when the NFL issued a press release detailing the assignment of Compensatory Draft Picks around the League. The current, as of Thursday, CBA calls for up to 32 extra Picks to be awarded based on a formula devised by the NFL Management Council. Since VFA have become rampant in this past decade, it is safe to assume that every year the League will assign all 32 Picks, thus in essence, growing the Draft from 7 to 8 rounds. Hopefully, you have seen this site’s “2020 Picks by Team” chart. This list is taken from information distributed by NFL Media. We have taken it and broken it down in a team format so you can check out your favorite team’s Draft ammunition more easily. So here are some of the things that struck me from looking through the Picks chart.
As usual, the Bengals are the team with 7 Picks total, and every one of them is the Pick as allotted by the League. The Bengals don’t trade around or “work the Draft” as many NFL folks and watchers refer to trading up and/or down. Based on my observations from watching MIKE BROWN’s franchise for decades, this may be a wise philosophy for them, given how lacking they seem to be in creativity and imagination. They would most likely screw up most transactions they might engage in, if they played the Board, so to speak.
Looks to me like the Panthers and Chargers also fit that model this year as well, with 7 Picks seeming to be in their proper order.
There are 255 Picks for the 2020 Draft, which means that some team forfeited a Pick for some reason. It was the Cardinals, who used their 5th Round Pick to draft S/JALEN THOMPSON in the Supplemental Draft last Summer, just before Training Camp.
I do find it ironic that the two teams who battled for the Super Bowl trophy last February are amongst the bottom feeders when it comes to available Picks. The Chiefs are tied for the League low at 5. Only the Saints have that small of a count number. The 49ers have 6 Picks, which ties them with the Cardinals, Rams, Steelers & Titans.
Given the Compensatory Pick count, I always say the average NFL team should have 8 Picks per Draft. Just over half of the teams in the NFL, 17, have less than 8 Picks in the upcoming Draft, barring future moves between now and the Draft in late April. So, the other 15 of the league’s teams have 8 or more.
7 teams have double digit Pick counts: Vikings, Giants, Eagles, Packers with 10; Broncos & Patriots with 12; and the League-leading Dolphins with 14. However, all big volume teams are not created equal, as the saying kinda goes. 7 of the Pats 12 Picks are in Rounds 6 & 7. The Vikings count 4 of their Picks in Round 7. 4 Picks in Round 7 also applies for the Giants. It’s obviously for your team’s good the more Picks they have, but your scouting department better really be on the ball if you are counting on Rounds 6 & 7 to build your roster.
The Dolphins are truly loaded in quantity and quality, with 7 of their top Picks being in the Top 141, and 6 within the Top 70. My caution for Dolphins fans would be to hope that the team does not consider itself to have so much ammunition that they start giving up 2-3 Picks to move up a Round or less for a coveted prospect or two. When a team was a pleasant surprise to win all of 4 games last season (which they were), lots of help is needed. They need to get good value while they have the extra Picks and so many clear needs, rather than be shooting for just a couple of “excellent” players. One Draft Pick can still only fill one roster position hole, at best. If the Dolphins trade around, I would be skeptical unless they still manage 10 Picks overall when the dust settles.
Expect the Broncos to be active and aggressive. Of their 12 Picks, 6 are in the top 118 selections in this upcoming Draft. They also have made roster moves that give them a very nice cache’ of Cap dollars available to sign a few solid Veteran Free Agents. GM ELWAY may have his back to the wall, needing to add serious talent overall and make a Playoff run in 2020, in a Champion’s (Chiefs) division. Yet, he might just have enough ammo to pull it off. Especially if QB DREW LOCK progresses from his solid 2019 Rookie season.
4 teams have no First Round Pick this year. They are the Bears, Texans, Steelers, and as usual, the Rams. I fear that the Rams team of SNEAD/McVAY have backed themselves into a corner in their pursuit of elite talent. I also expect that starting next week, they will lose some big name players to VFA because of Cap issues.
A team that has been built and sustained almost exclusively thru the Draft process this century so far (and even before) has been the Ravens. That approach began in earnest once OZZIE NEWSOME was selected as the team’s GM after their move to Baltimore. OZZIE retired last year, turning his GM title over to ERIC DeCOSTA, his long time assistant. NEWSOME is still with the organization as an Executive Vice-president. Nice safety blanket for DeCOSTA in a pinch. The Ravens have some serious holes to fill, and/or upgrade, on their winning roster. Even though they have just over the standard with 9 Picks, 4 of those are in the Top 106 selections, and 8 of their 9, are within the first 5 Rounds. Given their usual drafting acumen, this should allow them to fill some starting and depth spots on their team depth chart.
The Eagles are fortunate to be in position to add some significant talent to their roster, unless HOWIE ROSEMAN gets aggressive (again) with trading as he has done multiple times. The Eagles currently have 4 Picks in the top 103, plus 3 more Picks in Round 4. Those 4th Rounders may provide the ammunition ROSEMAN needs to jump up a couple of times in Rounds 2/3, if prospects strike his fancy to do so.
The Falcons leadership crew, headed by GM THOMAS DIMITROFF, looked like a group that might be headed for the unemployment line last November. Then they got hot in December, and patient owner ARTHUR BLANK kept his top guys around. Even though the team does not possess a mother lode of Picks (7), they have 4 in the top 78 overall. Given that they have already purged some high price vets to gain Cap space, there will be some serious holes to fill with these first 4 Picks.
The roster seems to be spinning at top speed, with basically the whole upper management team and roster having been purged (again) in Cleveland. So the Browns will be searching for some serious new talent. The good news is that the DORSEY regime did not leave them devoid of Picks. Though the team has only 7 total Picks, they have 4 in the Top 91, and 5 in the Top 115. That is good ammunition to use in trying to bolster the top of their depth charts.
Just for chuckles, it might be interesting to pay attention to the goings on in the Raiders Draft Room, in their new Vegas digs. The team has 5 Picks in the first 3 Rounds, which should keep them very busy on Thursday and Friday. Then when Day 3 of the Draft rolls around, they currently have only 2 Picks left to exercise. Those are in Rounds 4 & 5 respectively. I’ll be watching to try to determine who is left in their Draft Room at the end Day 3. MAYOCK will stay, but some staff may go play a round of golf, or a slot or two, on Saturday.
In closing, I think it would behoove me to explain to you how I value Picks based on quality expectations by Round:
Round 1 Starters with Pro Bowl potential
Rounds 2 & 3 Starters by the middle of their Rookie season
Rounds 4 & 5 Contributors on the roster as situational and Special Team players
Rounds 6 & 7 Primarily Special Teamers as Rookies, with developmental potential given time
In reality, Rookie Free Agents may end up with as much, or more, roster potential than draftees from Round 6/7.
To sustain the lifeline of roster building talent, about 10 Rookies per season need to make the 53-man roster. 80-90% of them will be Draftees, the rest Rookie Free Agents.
I had a sage old scout tell me once in the Mobile, AL airport, waiting to leave town after the Senior Bowl, that an NFL team generally needs to hit on 75% + of its draftees, based on 8 Picks per year. And he specified that their contribution to the team doesn’t count much unless they are still on your roster after 3 seasons, not factoring in injury issues. He also felt that with Practice Squads (8 per team back when we spoke), a team’s scouting department should find enough good Rookie Free Agents to make a regular roster at about 3-4 players per year, after developing them in a practice capacity.
We’ll talk more Draft in the weeks to come, of course.
The wild card in these proceedings this year will revolve around the Coronavirus. There has been talk that the big party plans for Vegas by the NFL may be swept aside in the name of viral containment in big crowds. That could lead to the Draft reverting back to very old days with teams calling in their Picks over the phone to NFL Headquarters in New York.