The Definitive Winners and Losers of the 2020 NFL Draft
Photo Credit: John S. Peterson

The Definitive Winners and Losers of the 2020 NFL Draft

April 27, 2020

This is an NFL Draft winners and losers column. So. Yeah.

Winner: Kliff Kingsbury’s Social Status

I never quite understood the “Texas Tech’s head coach looks like Ryan Gosling” comments. Do they bare a passing resemblance? On the right day, sure. But a buddy once asked Kingsbury at a Big 12 Media Days roundtable what it meant to him to be the most attractive coach in the Big 12 and he just laughed, so he has the swagger at least down.

But Texas Tech Red Raider head coach Kliff Kingsbury always felt like a Super Saver Ryan Gosling, absolutely no offense intended. If any man was to be called “Super Saver Ryan Gosling” they would gladly accept it. I’m getting off-track.

Arizona Cardinal head coach Kliff Kingsbury is a completely new dude.

This man went 7-6 and then 5-7 with MVP-winning, Super Bowl-winning Patrick Mahomes as his quarterback in 2015 and 2016, was fired following the 2018 campaign after his fourth losing season in six years, and then rode the boat out of Lubbock, Texas, and all the way into a mansion that would make John Wick jealous and a head coaching gig with an NFL team that now features former No. 1 pick and Heisman winner Kyler Murray at quarterback, a receiver in DeAndre Hopkins who has legit claim to the title of “Best Receiver in Football,” and just had an Isaiah Simmons who will likely become a perennial All-Pro kind of linebacker fall into his lap with the eighth pick in the 2020 draft.

Failing. Upwards.

Kliff makes a league dripping with the one-percent’s one percent look like beggars. The only man capable of out-doing Kliff right now is Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who put his private war room in a freaking spaceship.

At the other end of the spectrum, the biggest winner of the actual draft, Zac Taylor of the Cincinnati Bengals, looks like he’s about to deny my small business loan to open an ice cream shop.

Loser: Mike Vrabel’s . . . Whatever That Was

I don’t… I don’t even know where to begin.

There’s someone who looks to be in need of a bathroom door, someone who looks like they’re about to pitch a Frozone origin story, someone with what looks like an orange mullet and then a Big Game Hunter arcade game off-camera. What could possibly be hiding behind that Titans tarp?

Winner: Formats

Was this better than the draft normally is? It kinda feels like it. The prospect of something going horribly and hilariously wrong for a team making it’s first-round selection and running out of time on the clock was appetizing, but the NFL showed this virtual draft process was more than a viable way to go about doing things.

We don’t necessarily need a green room filled with angst and nervous energy. There were close to 60 players who were given video kits by ESPN so the network could patch in and capture in-the-moment reactions from players in their homes with their families.

Khalil and Carlos Davis might not have normally been visible to the viewing public, but because of this unique situation, the Husker twins had a camera in their home and we were able to witness one of the cooler moments of the entire thing, brother Khalil tackling Carlos when he found out they were both getting picked by teams.

What if 100 players had those kits? Or more? It’s not really that hard anymore; mount an iPhone on a tripod and the quality will be more than acceptable. Plus, in future drafts, parties of more than 10 people will presumably be a thing, so the reactions could theoretically get better.

Plus, the NFL was able to raise $100 million for COVID-19 relief. Claps all around.

Loser: Formats

Could have done without the musical performances and the pre-recorded fans getting urged on by commissioner Roger Goodell as he made the next draft pick, but there was one major black eye on this virtual draft.

For whatever reason—maybe an added premium on analysis since the actual people themselves weren’t available for extended conversations—the ESPN team latched onto one particular script for when a player got drafted:

Name, measurables, general college information

What he does well on a football field

Horribly inappropriate and entirely too personal anecdotal story about some family tragedy or adversity

Whether Tee Higgins signed off on the info being broadcast or not (he’s proud of his mom’s battle with drug addiction and that’s pretty cool on it’s own right), using the best day of the young man’s life to talk about something that personal seemed a step too far.

There’s a line between humanizing someone and profiting off another’s past trauma that ESPN crossed a number of times. Everyone and their dog is on some form of social media. It’s easier to connect with athletes on a personal level more than ever before. If the linebacker your favorite team just drafted wants you to know about their most intimate struggles, they’ll share that information when they want to. Maybe every single one of those guys who came with a pre-packaged story about a time in their life where they overcame some kind of deep emotional grief gave ESPN the permission to broadcast that story (I hope they did), but that just felt like the wrong medium.

Finding out that Liberty receiver and Washington draftee Antonio Gandy-Golden can solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than two minutes, bowled a perfect game after only picking up the sport months earlier and grew up raising sheep? That’s humanizing.

The rest could have been left on the cutting room floor.

Winner: Bill Belichick’s Dog

So that’s what Belichick looks like without the hoodie.

Loser: Phone Privacy

Winner: Nebraska Fans In Tampa Bay

For Khalil Davis, there may not be a better spot in the entire league for him to start his career.

Davis was drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the 15th pick of the sixth round Saturday. That late in the draft, agents are already fielding calls from teams about undrafted free agency deals, and sometimes going that route can be better—you know, actually being able to pick the situation you’re walking into as opposed to being somebody’s “Yeah, why not, we’ll take a flier on him” guy.

But Davis now joins a team that already features two former Blackshirts. He told Bucs media after getting drafted he grew up idolizing Ndamukong Suh, and now Davis will sit and learn behind the NFL veteran. Presumably, Suh will mentor Davis to take his spot when it’s time for the 10-year pro to hang the helmet up.

“We like his versatility,” said Buccaneers Director of Player Personnel John Spytek. “This past season at Nebraska he played a different position than where we'll play him in our defense. He's a phenomenal athlete. He stood out on tape as he was basically playing defensive end for them this year. Then what we had seen on tape was backed up at the Combine when he ran a 4.75 at 308 pounds. He's a unique defensive lineman physically – 4.75, quick and explosive. He can play a lot of spots for us.

“He'll play a lot where Suh will play. He can also play nose tackle in our dime and nickel groups. He had eight sacks this year. He's a solid run player and we're going to get him stronger. The best thing he does right now is use his athleticism."

He’ll also have Lavonte David to lean on. When it comes to the transition from college to pro life, both on and off the field, he’s walking in the door with a pair of brothers to go to for advice/help/whatever else. That feels invaluable.

Loser: Nebraska

The Athletic’s Matt Brown did a quick analysis of Power Five programs’ drafted players in the College Football Playoff era, then compared those to each team’s Massey Composite ratings during the same time.

In terms of rank, Nebraska’s about where its Massey Composite would suggest it should be, but that’s not the part I care about. I care most about the simple number next to “drafted players.”

Nebraska has had 11 since the CFP was created. Its peers are Oregon State and Tennessee, neither of which is good company to keep in any conversation about talent. Oklahoma State and Kentucky have had 10. Washington State and Colorado, among others, have had nine. North Carolina, Cal, and Pitt have each had 12. Eight other Big Ten programs have had more than the Huskers. Ohio State leads the conference with 50. Nebraska is not close to the top-25 in this particular ranking, in case that wasn’t immediately clear.

And that’s the problem.

Nebraska got curb-stomped by draft host Trey Wingo over the Joe Burrow situation, but the bigger issue for Big Red was the fact that once again it was a complete afterthought in terms of draftable talent. Most locals thought Lamar Jackson was a shoe-in to get drafted, and whether the lack of team success played a role or not, the fact is he wasn’t a priority cornerback to NFL teams in a draft where 26 corners were taken.

The national-title-winning LSU Tigers had a long-snapper taken before Nebraska had a player taken.

It’s a rough loop to get on. You have to be great to get players drafted and you have to get players drafted to get great players to come join the fun. The next draft class will be the first time Scott Frost’s players will be eligible to declare. Frost has plenty of work to be done.

Winner: NFL Teams

In my highly educated opinion, everyone had a good draft. Except the Packers.

As I’m sure you noticed by now, this isn’t actual analysis of the individual successes and failures of NFL front offices throughout the seven rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft. Hopefully that wasn’t a disappointment. You don’t come to me for NFL Draft analysis, though. There are better places for that. You barely come to me for Nebraska football analysis.

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