Could the 2020 NFL Draft Be One of the Greatest?

Rick Gosselin

The greatest draft in NFL history was arguably 1964. A record 10 of the selections have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame, including quarterback Roger Staubach.

If not 1964, then the 1957 draft merits strong consideration. That draft produced nine Hall of Famers, including fullback Jim Brown, the greatest player ever to suit up on Sundays. If not 1964 or 1957, then the 1983 draft deserves a look. There have been only seven Hall of Famers to date but three of them were quarterbacks – John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino.

Down the road, will the 2020 draft enter this conversation? No draft in NFL history has ever had a better start. Of the 255 players selected last April, a record 209 of them made opening-day rosters. That’s a success rate of 81.9 percent, another record for drafts.

In addition to the 209 draft picks who made rosters, another 22 wound up on reserve lists and 22 more were signed to practice rosters. So of the 255 players who were drafted in 2020, only two are not currently drawing paychecks from the National Football League – center Dustin Woodard and quarterback Cole McDonald, who were both seventh-round draft picks.

Woodard left camp with the New England Patriots and announced his retirement in mid-August. McDonald was cut at the close of the camp by the Tennessee Titans and re-signed to the club’s practice squad. But Tennessee released him when the Titans signed veteran quarterback Trevor Siemian.

The 2020 draft class also produced a record number of opening-day starters – 49, including 46 draft picks. Eighteen of them were first-rounders. 

There also were three undrafted college free agents who earned starting spots last weekend: halfback James Robinson of the Jacksonville Jaguars, offensive tackle Terence Steele of the Dallas Cowboys and inside linebacker Krys Barnes of the Green Bay Packers.

Here are some other nuggets from the 2020 draft:

--Eight teams kept all of their draft picks – Jacksonville (12), Baltimore (10), Washington (eight), Cincinnati, Dallas and Denver (seven apiece) and Atlanta and the Los Angeles Chargers (six apiece).

--Seven teams kept a double-figure rookie class – Jacksonville with 16 first-year players, the Los Angeles Rams and Miami with 11 apiece and Baltimore, Dallas, Indianapolis and Minnesota all with 10.

--In addition to the 209 draft picks, 39 undrafted college free agents made opening-day rosters. The Jaguars kept a league-high four. Mississippi, South Carolina and Temple produced two of those undrafted college free agents apiece.

--The adage, “If you can play, the NFL will find you” was once again proven in 2020. The defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs signed an offensive tackle from Missouri Science and Technology and Buccaneers signed a linebacker from Wagner. Both Tershawn Wharton of the Chiefs and Cam Gill of the Buccaneers made it.

--Of those 39 undrafted players, five played cornerback and another five played wide receiver. There was only one quarterback (Arizona’s Chris Streveler of South Dakota) and no centers among the undrafteds.

--Of the 39 undrafted players, 16 attended the combine. Of those who weren't invited to Indianapolis, seven played in the East-West Game and two played in the NFLPA All-Star Game.

--Of the 209 draft picks on the opening-day rosters, 59 were listed as inactives last weekend. So most still must wait another week or two or four before making their NFL debuts.

--The best value in the first round was offensive tackle. There were five of them selected and all started on opening day: Andrew Thomas with the fourth overall pick by the Giants, Jedrick Willis at 10 by the Browns, Mekhi Becton at 11 by the Jets, Tristan Wirfs at 13 by the Buccaneers and Austin Jackson at 18 by the Dolphins.

--The third round was where the best deals could be found. There were 42 players drafted that round and 40 of them made NFL rosters. That’s a record number for that round. In addition, 11 of those 40 selections were in the opening-day starting lineups. The first was the only round that produced more starters than the third. Just eight of the 32 players selected in the second round earned starting spots last weekend.

--Starters were found in every round of the draft with one apiece in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. Fifth-round wide receiver Quintez Cephus started for the Lions, sixth-round safety Jordan Fuller started for the Rams and seventh-round cornerback Chris Jackson for the Titans. Fuller made the defensive play of the game in the Rams’ victory over the Cowboys, stopping wide receiver CeeDee Lamb a yard short on a fourth-and-three crossing pattern late in the game to preserve a 20-17 victory.

--Of the 248 rookies, the player with the best NFL debut was former LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. As the only running back selected in the first round on the very last pick by the Chiefs, Helaire-Edwards proved worthy of Kansas City’s wait with an NFL-best 138 rushing yards in a victory over Houston.

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