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Five biggest surprises from the 2020 NFL Draft

We were all surprised by these moves/decisions.

Utah State v LSU
Jordan Love is officially a Green Bay Packer.
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The NFL Draft is always full of surprises. Every year, there are teams that do something completely unexpected of them.

Said surprises can both be good or bad depending on the situation, so it’s not always a bad thing if your team ends up on this list.

But enough with the talk. Let’s get this show on the road.

5. The Panthers load up on defense

You’d expect a team with an offensive-minded head coach to concentrate on offense during their first draft, but that wasn’t the case with new Panthers head coach Matt Rhule.

The first-year head coach spent every single pick of the draft on defensive talent. He loaded up on defensive linemen and secondary players, which makes sense, but is also a bit odd considering the Panthers didn’t do anything to replace Luke Keuchly, who they lost to retirement earlier in the year. They signed Tahir Whitehead during free agency, but he’s an outside linebacker, not an inside guy.

Regardless, just take a look at this haul:

  • Round 1: Pick 7 (7) • DT Derrick Brown.
  • Round 2: Pick 6 (38) • DE Yetur Gross-Matos.
  • Round 2: Pick 32 (64) • S Jeremy Chinn.
  • Round 4: Pick 7 (113) • CB Troy Pride Jr.
  • Round 5: Pick 6 (152) • S Kenny Robinson.
  • Round 6: Pick 5 (184) • DT Bravvion Roy.
  • Round 7: Pick 7 (221) • CB Stantley Thomas-Oliver III.

That a ton of defensive talent to add to your team in one draft. If Rhule can have the same impact with the Panthers a la Baylor, then the NFC South is going to be primed for war in 2020 and beyond.

4. This wasn’t a draft that was “full of activity” in Round 1

We heard how this was going to be “one of the craziest first rounds” and to expect a “ton of activity” in terms of teams making moves on the first night.

Well, in total, four teams made moves: the Bucs, the Packers, the Patriots, and the 49ers.

The first trade didn’t happen until the Bucs moved up with the 49ers to take Tristan Wirfs with the 13th overall pick. The next one didn’t happen until the early-20s when the Patriots traded back with the Chargers.

In all, not much happened.

3. O.J. Howard wasn’t traded during the draft

This wasn’t a surprise for yours truly, but many outlets were anticipating that Howard would be dealt after the Rob Gronkowski trade, so there are obviously folks on the outside that will be surprised at the fact that Howard wasn’t traded.

It looks like the Bucs will carry Howard, Gronkowski, and Cameron Brate on their roster in 2020, which easily gives them the best tight end group in the league.

We’ll know what happens with Howard in the long-term soon enough, as well. The Bucs have to approve his fifth-year option by May 5, which is just around 10-11 days away.

2. The Eagles draft Jalen Hurts in the second round

This was a surprise in itself based off the fact that the Eagles used a second round pick on a quarterback, who will likely take a year or two to develop. The Eagles have multiple holes to fill across the roster, yet they took a guy who some think would’ve gone in the later rounds (third or fourth) of the draft.

But when you look a little deeper, this makes sense to an extent. We all know about Carson Wentz’s injury history. Last year was the first 16 game season he’s played since his rookie year and he still managed to get hurt during the first quarter of the playoffs. He missed the rest of the game and backup Josh McCown came in to replace him.

The Eagles have set up Wentz’s contract to where they can go their separate ways after the 2021 season. His overall cap hit is close to $31.3 million and he will cost the Eagles around $24.5 million in dead cap, but that represents close to $7 million in savings. In other words, the Eagles would save $7 million by releasing Wentz after 2021.

The dead cap numbers continue to decline in each of the two years after 2021, which obviously represents more savings cap-wise. So if Wentz can’t stay healthy and Hurts is showing progress, the Eagles can make a move that will benefit the team.

But what it all boils down to is the Eagles just potentially set themselves up for a nightmare scenario between Wentz and Hurts over the next few years. If Wentz can’t get it done at a high level or stay healthy, then you better believe the patient and easy-going Eagles fans (hahaha) will certainly begin to clamor for Hurts.

1. The Packers trade up to draft Jordan Love in the first round

Look, I understand that Aaron Rodgers is 36-years-old and threw for the second-lowest amount of touchdowns over the course a 16-game season during his career in 2019, but he still can do things that a lot of other quarterbacks can’t do and he can still play at a high level. Per Football Outsiders, Rodgers yielded the eighth-highest DYAR and per Sports Info Solutions, he was first in Total Points Earned and eighth in IQR among quarterbacks with 11+ starts in 2019.

Drafting a quarterback - and using a fourth-round pick to move up in the first round - does not help Rodgers, whatsoever. The team still needs major help at receiver and on the defensive side of the ball. This was a deep draft at receiver and we saw how much a good defense helped Rodgers and the Packers last year, so why wouldn’t the Packers think to continue to improve those areas?

The fact the team traded up also adds a layer of urgency to the move. I’m not saying that Rodgers will be cut, traded, or that Love will send him to the bench, but you have to think the Packers are going to look for an opportunity to eventually get Love on the field instead of waiting for said opportunity.

This move is a baffling one that also signals the official beginning of the end of the Rodgers era.