Dolphins stop with the smoke signals, make the pick they’ve been waiting for since 2018
Somewhere along the way, the Dolphins’ tank for Tua Tagovailoa became a saga. For starters, there was no tank. The Dolphins’ 5-4 finish to what was looking like an 0-16 campaign highlighted a team that couldn’t even lose right. But Tagovailoa’s own foibles — a dislocated hip — realigned the stars, allowing the Dolphins to both build confidence down the stretch of 2019 while remaining within striking distance of a player they so clearly coveted. Or at least we thought. The Dolphins spent the entire spring feigning interest in Oregon’s Justin Herbert, keeping the NFL world guessing while nearly sparking a fan revolt over a pick that had yet to even happen. In the end, destiny could not be ignored. The Dolphins have their most talented quarterback since Dan Marino, and fantasy players have a rare talent to drool over as long as his hip checks out.
Chargers enter their brave new world with gamble at quarterback
The last time the Chargers started a quarterback other than Philip Rivers was 2005. It was Drew Brees. Now they will hurtle into the great unknown with Oregon’s Justin Herbert, a college quarterback who hit Brees-like layups but lacked down-field flair. Herbert has the size, arm strength and athleticism every team wants in a franchise player, but he just might not have the throws. The Bolts are betting on projection more than what Herbert showed in the PAC-12. Herbert has to improve as a deep passer, otherwise this will be little more than a holding-pattern selection.
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Raiders keep Al Davis’ eternal flame burning, make Henry Ruggs first receiver off the board
In desperate want of a down-field weapon, the Raiders went back to the well they have visited so many times: Raw speed. Ruggs’ jets are not in question. It’s his overall refinement as a receiver that is unclear. Although he is devastatingly effective in space, Ruggs is not yet a sophisticated route runner, and projects as someone who will need his early-career targets manufactured. All the raw materials exist for a Tyreek Hill-type impact, but Ruggs could be more Tarik Cohen as he gets his NFL feet wet. This is, after all, a player who never even reached 800 yards in the SEC. Even if Ruggs is more polished than expected, does a Tyreek-ian burner align with Derek Carr’s skill-set? We know the answer to that. Ruggs is a curious pick from a franchise that specializes in them, but someone whose special traits could still easily win the day.
Broncos give Drew Lock another big-play threat in Jerry Jeudy
You can question the wisdom of building around Lock. If you’re going to do it, however, you should do it with players like Courtland Sutton and Jeudy. Although he did most of his damage out of the slot, Jeudy is more than capable of contributing big plays down the field. That is what Lock loves most, and where the Broncos must focus if they are to finally gear up their offense after years in the post-Peyton Manning wilderness. A chalky pick, Jeudy was also the right one.
Cowboys round out three-receiver sets with electric CeeDee Lamb
The Cowboys strengthened a strength when they landed a receiver many considered the draft’s best, adding an explosive talent that will allow OC Kellen Moore to rotate his top three wideouts at every spot on the field. Lamb arrives with truly special stop/start capabilities, as well as the ability to both bounce off defenders and blow by them. With Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup first in line for targets, Dallas is not the destination Dynasty league players would have chosen, but the Cowboys are an excellent real-life landing spot for a home run waiting to happen.
Eagles and Vikings go different directions with receiver picks
Reliable slot presence Justin Jefferson was popularly mocked to the Eagles, but they went with TCU enigma Jalen Reagor instead. The possessor of truly rare acceleration and chunk-play ability, Reagor complicated his evaluation with an uneven 2019 effort amidst truly dreadful quarterback play. He averaged a deeply concerning 6.9 yards per target while totaling over 400 fewer yards than 2018. His frustration was evident on game tape. Jefferson, meanwhile, blossomed as a 20-year old junior, going 111/1,540/18 for the national champion LSU Tigers. He further bolstered his stock with a 4.43 40-yard dash at the Combine, but that speed did not always show up on film, where Jefferson sometimes struggled to separate. He did excel in contested-catch situations. Is that sustainable in the slot at the NFL level? The run-focused Vikings are about to find out.
49ers add another unique playmaker to receiver corps
Adding yet another slasher/YAC machine to their offense, the Niners traded up for Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk, someone who is more quick than fast but oozes toughness from his 6-foot-0 frame. The nature of both his targets — likely short — and target competition — other YAC monsters — could make it difficult for Aiyuk to rack up huge rookie numbers, but Kyle Shanahan is the right mentor if you’re going to land in an offense focused on getting its playmakers out into space.
Packers drop jaws with Jordan Love trade up
Instead of giving Aaron Rodgers a first-round skill player — something Rodgers noted they had not done during his entire time as quarterback — the Packers drew up a succession plan. That’s one thing. But to do it with Utah State’s Love, a quarterback who posted a 20:17 TD:INT ratio in 2019? Love has alibis, including coaching changes and a lack of weapons at his mid-major school. Extremely athletic and unflappable in the pocket, Love boasts building block traits. That’s just not something the Packers should be interested in during Rodgers’ twilight years. The Pack made the NFC Championship Game without a No. 2 receiver last season. Why are they planning for 2023 instead of maximizing their 2020 championship odds? Rodgers is one of many who would like to know.
Chiefs make Clyde Edwards-Helaire the only running back off the board
A rare talent as a pass-catching back, Edwards-Helaire cannot be forgotten as a runner, where he disappears into piles and emerges with extra yards. Although not a home run hitter, Edwards-Helaire racks up doubles by converting 3-4 yard outs into 7-8 yard gainers. It’s fair to wonder why a coach in Andy Reid who has had so much success finding later-round running backs took the first-round plunge, but it fills one of the Chiefs’ only needs with yet another certified playmaker. NFL ready as a third-down back, Edwards-Helaire is also in the driver’s seat for early-down work.