Free Agency Refines the Landscape of the NFL Draft

  • 2020 NFL Free Agency
  • NFl Draft
By Kyle Smith March 21, 2020 0 Comment
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The first week of NFL Free Agency is nearly over. How has it changed what teams will address in the first round of the NFL Draft in 2020?

Big trades, massive payouts, legendary quarterbacks changing teams. Free agency gifted NFL fans all the action they needed, and it’s not even a week old. As the news unfolded, the pre-free agency mock drafts became obsolete. Several teams filled massive holes on their roster with a single signing. On the contrary, teams lost key contributors and changed the dynamics of their rosters. Below we assess how some teams transformed the landscape of the first round of the NFL draft

3. Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions had a gaping hole at cornerback opposite Darius Slay. The Lions signed Desmond Trufant from the Falcons, but they were forced to trade Slay after voicing his frustrations with the organization. While their needs did not change, this move locks in Jeffery Okudah, the cornerback from Ohio State, with the third overall pick.

6. Los Angeles Chargers

The Los Angeles Chargers lost the race for Tom Brady but addressed their offensive line by trading for Trai Turner and signing Bryan Bulaga. After opting not to resign Philip Rivers, the Chargers have a need at quarterback for the first time since 2004. The team also is reported not to have an interest in a veteran quarterback presence. With Tua Tagovailoa assumed to be drafted by the Dolphins somewhere in the top five picks, look for Justin Herbert or Jordan Love to battle it out for the sixth pick.

7. Carolina Panthers

Out with the old, in with the new. The Carolina Panthers have allowed Cam Newton to seek a trade, but will most likely release him in the coming days. To take his spot, the Panthers signed Teddy Bridgewater to a three year, $63 million deal. Bridgewater’s signing does not take the Panthers out of the quarterback race entirely, but it puts a damper on their odds of drafting one at pick seven. Carolina has several defensive needs and will need to upgrade their offensive line. In a class loaded with athletic offensive and defensive linemen, the Panthers could go either way.

8. Arizona Cardinals

The Arizona Cardinals were on the receiving end of the blockbuster trade that sent Deandre Hopkins from the Texans to the Cardinals. With a receiving corp of Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald, and Christian Kirk, Kyler Murray‘s stats (and fantasy stock) should skyrocket. Unless, of course, he is running for his life behind their subpar offensive line. The Cardinals should have their choice of players like Tristan Wirfs, Jedrick Wills Jr., Mekhi Becton, or Andrew Thomas to protect the former number one overall pick.

9. and 20. Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are known for playing in free agency, but this year they were more of a seller than a buyer. Jacksonville traded cornerback A.J. Bouye and defensive lineman Calais Campbell. With Yannick Ngaoukue’s franchise tag, there is a strong chance that he is also moved before the season begins. After signing Joe Schobert to a five-year deal, the Jaguars must fill the gaps left on the first and third level of their defense. C.J. Henderson, Derrick Brown, Javon Kinlaw, Trevon Diggs, and A.J. Terrell could all be in play. With 12 picks in the upcoming draft, don’t rule out any trades for a potential franchise quarterback if they don’t believe in Gardner Minshew.

12. and 19 Las Vegas Raiders

Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock decided to fill holes at all levels of the defense. They signed two linebackers, Nick Kwiatkoski and Cory Littleton, defensive end Carl Nassib, cornerback Eli Apple, and safety Jeff Heath. Las Vegas’s linebacker corp could use depth, but the Raiders have now put themselves in a position to draft the best player available. If Derek Carr is their future quarterback, they should also target weapons to bolster their attack.

13. and 31. San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco jumped at the opportunity to trade Deforest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts in exchange for the 13th overall pick. Last season, the 49ers shocked the world as they flipped a 4-12 team to a Super Bowl contender behind a legendary defense. Losing Buckner will hurt their dominant defensive line, but it won’t crush their defensive performance. With Emmanuel Sanders signing with the New Orleans Saints, their wide receiver room took a hit. The 49ers should target weapons for Jimmy Garappolo with the 13th pick. If Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb falls to 13, expect San Francisco to sprint to the podium.

17. Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys were able to keep their offense intact by franchising Dak Prescott and signing Amari Cooper to a long-term deal. However, their defense lost a step as they lost Robert Quinn to the Chicago Bears. Dallas did sign the aging Gerald McCoy to address the defensive line and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to protect against the deep ball, but there are new needs at edge rusher. K’Lavon Chaisson, A.J. Epenesa, or Yetur Gross-Matos could fit nicely.

21. Philadelphia Eagles

Cornerback was a necessity heading into this offseason for the Philadelphia Eagles. After landing Darius Slay for the relatively low price of a third and fifth-round draft pick, the Eagles can focus solely on weapons for Carson Wentz. At the end of last season, the Eagles were signing players off the street to run routes. Alshon Jeffery and Desean Jackson are on the wrong side of 30 and, if last season is any indicator, are not getting any healthier. Players such as Justin Jefferson, Denzel Mims, or Henry Ruggs III could shine in Philadelphia.

23. New England Patriots

Tom Brady has left the Patriots with a glaring need at quarterback for the first time in 20 years. Unfortunately for Bill Belichick, he would be looking for a diamond in the rough this deep in the draft.  Last season, Brady struggled to find any open receivers so that a receiver could be in play. The defense may be the biggest need as the Pats lost two key defensive contributors in Jamie Collins and Kyle Van Noy. Zack Baun could be the perfect fit to fill Kyle Van Noy’s position.

As free agency flipped the script for some teams, look for more splash trades and surprising moves as we get closer to the draft. Will the Dolphins keep their three first-round picks, or will they trade up to select Tagovailoa or even Joe Burrow? Will the Colts trade back into the first round to grab their quarterback of the future? The landscape of the NFL draft is continually changing and will continue to do so over the next five weeks.

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