The 2020 NFL Draft has come and gone, and while we’ll be breaking down all the ramifications of the 255 picks made over the coming days and weeks, we’re taking a moment in the immediate afterglow to look back on the biggest surprises from draft weekend. Whether it’s a pair of teams curiously taking quarterbacks early, or one team making crazy trades while another crazy trader stayed put, or even the draft itself making it three days without any major hiccups, there was plenty from the most exciting weekend in football that took us by surprise.
Here’s a look at the draft’s 12 most surprising moments, starting with the biggest surprise from Day 1.
1. Packers draft a new franchise QB, pass on receivers
Heading into the draft, the Packers, who last season advanced to the NFC Championship Game, were expected to use the 30th pick on either a receiver or a linebacker. Instead, they traded the pick to the Dolphins in exchange for the 26th pick, which they used to take Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. While Love was among the top-ranked quarterback prospects in the draft, the pick was surprising considering the Packers’ position needs along with the fact that Aaron Rodgers is only 36 and coming off a season that saw him throw 26 touchdowns against just four interceptions.
While they did eventually draft a linebacker (taking Minnesota’s Kamal Martin in the fifth round), the Packers did not use any of their nine picks on a receiver. That will surely not please Rodgers, who was hoping that Green Bay would use their first-round pick on a skill position player.
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2. Running back selected on Day 1, and it’s not D’Andre Swift
The only running back that was thought to have a chance at being selected on Thursday night was Georgia’s D’Andre Swift, who was considered the best running back in this year’s draft (with Jonathan Taylor also receiving consideration). CBS Sports’ Will Brinson actually had the Chiefs selecting Swift with the 32nd pick in one of CBS Sports HQ’s Mock Draft Mondays.
While the Chiefs did take a running back, it wasn’t Swift, who was picked up by the Lions with the 35th pick. Instead, Kansas City selected Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who amassed nearly 2,000 all-purpose yards last season while helping LSU capture the national title. Edwards-Helaire will now look to complement Damien Williams, who scored the game-clinching touchodwn in the Chiefs’ victory in Super Bowl LIV.
“We just think he is a heck of a player,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said of the decision to make Edwards-Helaire first running back taken in the first round, via Pete Sweeney of SB Nation. “I know some of the coaches at LSU. They just speak so highly of him, as did the coaches that played against him. Brett Veach just did a phenomenal job of manipulating that and working through it, getting us in a position where we could take him. My hat goes off to his guys that busted their tail for us to get information on him. He’s got this huge heart and ability. When you put the tape on, he’s one of those guys that just jumps out at you.”
3. Jalen Hurts goes to … the Eagles?
Jalen Hurts being picked in the second round wasn’t a surprise, at least to some people. Hurts after all is coming off a 2019 season at Oklahoma that saw him amass over 5,000 all-purpose yards and 52 touchdowns while finishing near the top of the Heisman Trophy voting.
What was surprising is that Hurts was selected by the Eagles with the 53rd pick in the draft. Unlike the other quarterbacks that were selected before him, Hurts is heading to a team that already has its franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz, who is currently signed through the 2024 season. That being said, Wentz has missed the Eagles’ last three postseaons with an injury, including the team’s Super Bowl run back in 2017. When Wentz went down just before the 2019 playoffs, the Eagles were forced to start Josh McCown, who led Philadelphia’s offense to just nine points in their wild card loss to the visiting Seahawks.
While it was a surprising move, the acquisition of Hurts gives the Eagles an insurance policy should Wentz continue to struggle to stay on the field.
4. Seahawks don’t trade down in Round 1
General manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll moving Seattle’s first-round pick has become an annual first-round draft tradition. Four times since 2013, the Seahawks have traded out of the first round. Seattle also traded to the back of the first round in three of the previous four drafts.
But on Thursday night, Seattle, for the first time since 2011, used their original first round pick. With the 27th pick, the Seahawks addressed their need at linebacker, taking Texas Tech’s Jordyn Brooks. The selection of Brooks was also surprising, as Seattle passed on LSU’s Patrick Queen, a higher-ranked prospect who was selected by the Ravens with the very next pick.
5. Bears take another tight end with first pick
Chicago had nine tight ends entering the 2020 draft. Despite this, the Bears used their first pick (the 43rd overall pick) to select Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet. While Kmet — who caught 43 passes and six touchdowns in his only year as a starter in college — was the top-ranked tight end prospect in the draft, it was certainly a puzzling move, as the Bears were expected to use that pick on either an offensive lineman or a defensive back.
When discussing why he made the pick, Bears general manager Ryan Pace called Kmet a “classic Y tight end,” meaning that he will see considerable time lining up on the line of scrimmage. Pace also said that Kmet is a good complement for veteran Jimmy Graham, who was signed earlier this offseason.
“He pairs really well with Jimmy, pairs really well with Demetrius [Harris],” Pace said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. “We’re excited to take that position and make it a strength, and they all do different things.”
6. Cowboys land five potential long-term starters
Seldom does a team find five players in one draft that could be potential long-term starters. But that’s exactly what the Cowboys did in this draft, landing receiver CeeDee Lamb in the first round, cornerback Trevon Diggs in the second, defensive lineman Neville Gallimore in the third, center Tyler Biadasz in the fourth, and edge rusher Bradlee Anae in the fifth.
Lamb, who was regarded as one of the top three receivers in the draft, was not expected to be on the board that late in the first round, and the Cowboys pivoted from their initial plan to take the star playmaker. Diggs and Gallimore, considered possible Day 1 talents, were snatched up by the Cowboys on Day 2. And after adding to their offensive line (one of the biggest items on Dallas’ pre-draft wish list) with the selection of Biadasz, Dallas made one of the biggest steals in the draft when they selected Anae — one of the top-100 prospects in CBS Sports’ pre-draft rankings — with the 179th pick.
While a great draft doesn’t guarantee success, it’s safe to say that Cowboys have put themselves in position to make a run at their first Super Bowl in a quarter century.
7. Broncos, Raiders can’t stop taking pass-catchers
While everyone expected the Broncos and Raiders to address their respective receiver positions during the draft, not many people expected the two teams to select a combined six receivers. The Raiders, who made Henry Ruggs III the first receiver selected with the 12th overall pick, then selected Kentucky’s Lynn Bowden Jr. and South Carolina’s Bryan Edwards with the 80th and 81st picks.
Like their AFC West counterpart, the Broncos also spent their first pick on a receiver, taking Jerry Jeudy with the 15th pick. Also like Las Vegas, Denver didn’t stop there, as they also selected KJ Hamler in the second round and Tyrie Cleveland in the seventh round, while also landing pass-catching tight end Albert Okwuegbunam in the fourth round. That’s a lot of weapons for young quarterback Drew Lock.
Denver’s new wideouts will look to complement 2019 Pro Bowler Courtland Sutton while also gaining a quick rapport with second-year quarterback Drew Lock. The Raiders’ new receivers will join a roster that already includes veteran Tyrell Williams and Hunter Renfrow.
8. Saints trade out of Day 3, then back in for QB
At the end of Day 2, Sean Payton and the Saints traded all four of their Day 3 picks to the Vikings in order to select former Dayton tight end Adam Trautman with the 105th pick. While it appeared that the Saints’ 2020 draft was already over before the final day began, New Orleans made a late trade, sending a 2021 sixth-round pick to the Texans to select Tommy Stevens, a 6-foot-7, 229-pound quarterback out of Mississippi State with the 240th pick. Stevens, who also spent four seasons at Penn State, threw 11 touchdowns and five interceptions during his one season with the Bulldogs.
While trading all of their Day 3 picks on Friday night was surprising in itself, the Saints’ decision to trade back into Day 3 to take a quarterback — when the team already has Drew Brees and Taysom Hill — was equally surprising.
9. Jacob Eason falls to Day 3
Despite being the fifth-best quarterback and 44th-best player in CBS Sports pre-draft rankings, former Washington quarterback Jacob Eason didn’t hear his name called until Day 3 of the draft. And when Eason’s name was finally called, the team that selected him with the 122nd pick was the Colts, a team that already has Philip Rivers and veteran Jacoby Brissett.
Like Hurts, Eason, who enjoyed a prolific 2019 season for the Huskies after starting his college career at Georgia, will have to start his NFL career as a backup quarterback. Eason’s stituation, however, is at least partially the result of the current quarterback market, as there are several talented former franchise quarterbacks who are still in search of their next opportunity.
Eason, unlike Hurts, should have an opportunity to play sooner rather than later, with Rivers only signed through the 2020 season.
10. Jake Fromm taken after James Morgan
No quarterback endured a longer draft-day fall than Georgia’s Jake Fromm, who was the eighth quarterback and 167th player picked in the draft. Among the quarterbacks selected before Fromm was former Florida International quarterback James Morgan, who was selected by the Jets with the 125th pick.
Fromm’s fall in the draft can likely partially be attributed to his unimpressive showing at February’s NFL combine, as Fromm failed to find his rhythm while throwing to unfamiliar receivers. Fromm was not able to make up for his substandard combine after Georgia’s pro day was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like Hurts and Eason, Fromm was selected by a team that already has a starting quarterback in place in Josh Allen, who helped lead the Bills to a 10-6 record in his second season in Buffalo. And while the starting job is Allen’s to lose, it’s not a stretch to believe that Fromm could get an opportunity at some point in the near future, as Allen’s playing style as a signal-caller who makes things happen in the running game opens him up for shots many other quarterbacks don’t have to take.
11. Patriots take a kicker, but no quarterbacks
While they did select former Marshall kicker Justin Rohrwasser, who himself was a big surprise as the first kicker selected, in the fifth round, Bill Belichick elected not to use any of his 10 draft picks on the quarterback position. This means that Belichick and the Patriots will either go after Cam Newton or Jameis Winston in free agency, try to acquire Bengals veteran Andy Dalton, or roll with Jarrett Stidham as their starting quarterback.
The Patriots did sign a rookie quarterback shortly after the draft, agreeing to a deal with former Louisiana Tech quarterback J’Mar Smith.
12. Virtual draft has no hitches
As alluded to above, the draft had no major issues despite it being the first-ever virtual draft. All told, 29 trades were executed over three days, while the actual time of the draft did not exceeded the usual norm.
Fans also appeared to enjoy the first-ever virtual draft, with Bill Belichick’s husky, Kliff Kingsbury’s living room and Roger Goodell’s lounge chair becoming instant social media sensations.
On Saturday, Saints head coach Sean Payton said that the league should incorporate parts of the virtual draft in future drafts.
“This has gone so well, and I know there’s a way you’re used to doing things, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see maybe some adjustments made,” Payton said on ESPN, via Larry Brown Sports. “I think the fan loves to see a little bit more of the interaction with each of these draft picks in their houses rather than in some setting where they’re all in their suits.”