The 2020 NFL Draft's first round was one for the history books.
Not only did the league conduct a (mostly) successful virtual first round, but the SEC broke its own record with a whopping 15 selections. That's right, nearly half of Thursday's picks came from one conference. I'm not suggesting NFL general managers are calling into "The Paul Finebaum Show" under aliases, but it's at least worth investigating.
The SEC wasn't the only entity to make its mark on draft night. Here are the winners and losers from Thursday's first round.
The 49ers played their cards just right Thursday night. They wheeled and dealed to move up and move down, but they still ended the first round with two picks and two of their biggest needs filled.
Joe Staley’s uncertain 49ers future surely helped convince the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to move up one spot to No. 13, and San Francisco was able to move back and select South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw, a natural replacement for departed defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. The 49ers then included the Bucs’ fourth-round pick (No. 117 overall) in a package to move up to No. 25 overall, where they selected rangy Arizona State wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk.
General manager John Lynch recently said late-round picks would have a tough time making the 49ers' roster next season, so it wasn’t necessarily imperative that the team hang onto all of its selections. Getting immediate contributors was more important, and Kinlaw and Aiyuk certainly qualify.
Losers: Running backs
Plenty of others who are smarter and more qualified than this author have written about the NFL draft’s de-emphasis on running backs. As recently as 2014, there were no running backs selected in the first round.
Still, something seemed oddly fitting about the first running back -- LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire -- being taken with the final pick of the first round. That’s especially true when you consider that Todd Gurley, who was first-team All-Pro as recently as 2018, was cut this offseason.
Running backs’ careers are, on average, the shortest of NFL players. Front offices clearly recognize that now, and you need not look any further than the fact that only one team -- the Kansas City Chiefs -- deemed a running back worthy of even having the option to sign for a fifth year.
Winner: Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins didn’t exactly tank for Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa last season, but they were able to have their cake and eat it, too, after he fell to them at No. 5 overall. He might not have been there if not for his hip injury last season, but Miami has its most promising signal-caller since Dan Marino was playing.
The Dolphins drafted a tackle (USC’s Austin Jackson) to protect Tagovailoa, but their best bit of business might’ve been trading the No. 26 overall pick to the Green Bay Packers for the 30th and 136th overall selections. The Dolphins took Auburn cornerback Noah Igbinoghene with the Packers’ pick.
Miami entered the draft with an NFL-high 14 picks and needs all over the field. The AFC East cellar-dwellers ended it with a franchise QB, an offensive lineman, a lockdown corner with room to grow, and an additional pick. That’s how you build a foundation to capitalize on Tom Brady’s divisional departure.
[49ERS INSIDER PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]
Loser: Aaron Rodgers
The similarities are eerie to when the Packers drafted Rodgers to replace Brett Favre, and time will tell if Utah State’s Jordan Love can follow in Rodgers’ footsteps. You can’t help but feel for the incumbent, however, given his clear lack of offensive support in Green Bay.
Rodgers carried countless subpar supporting casts in his prime, but the probable Pro Football Hall of Famer will turn 37 this season, and the Packers’ NFC Championship Game loss to the 49ers made it clear he no longer can do it on his own. The QB made his draft preferences known in a Thursday interview with Pat McAfee.
Aaron Rodgers on @PatMcAfeeShow: "We haven't picked a skill player in the first round in 15 years, so that would be kind of cool."— Matt Schneidman (@mattschneidman) April 24, 2020
Rodgers says whoever the pick is, he'll track down his phone number and welcome him to the team tonight -- if the Packers don't trade out.
This draft does have a deep crop of wide receivers, but trading up to pick Rodgers’ successor in the first round doesn’t reek of confidence in Green Bay’s 2020 chances. Perhaps the Packers didn’t want to double down on a season in which they won about three more games than expected based on point differential. Good luck selling that to one of the best QBs of all time, though.
Winner: Roger Goodell’s outfit change
Goodell wore a suit jacket sans tie to start Thursday’s first round, swapping it out for a v-neck sweater around the midway point.
Why did Roger Goodell switch outfits?— Sporting News (@sportingnews) April 24, 2020
Wrong answers only pic.twitter.com/V58gZVUxkm
Both looks are far too formal for most -- if not all -- work-from-home settings, but changing was a weirdly relatable move. He’s at home, so why wouldn’t he swap the jacket for a sweater if he was uncomfortable, camera setup be damned?
Of course, most people working from home at this point are switching one pair of sweats for another, so it’s not like Goodell is a People’s Champion for changing into other professional clothing. Still, I liked how he leaned into the strangeness of it all.
[RELATED: Grading 49ers' 'home run' Kinlaw pick]
Losers: Roger Goodell’s note cards
The commissioner read from note cards. That isn’t too strange to read on its own, until you remember he was by himself because of the draft’s virtual nature.
I have a lot of questions. Nobody handed Goodell the note cards, unlike a normal draft. Did Goodell get the picks relayed to him and then write them down so he could read off a card? Did teams fax him the answers? Was he even aware how strange it would look since the only person who could’ve handed him said card was … himself?
We’re all seeking a sense of normalcy as we adjust to difficult circumstances, but Goodell’s note cards were an unnecessary effort to make things appear “business as usual.” It’s not like anyone came into the night saying, “You know what we need for this to feel like a real draft? Note cards!”
Well, anyone outside of the league office, that is.