Thank goodness for the NFL Draft. While all major American sports leagues remain suspended during the coronavirus pandemic, the draft allowed us to ignore that (for the most part—shout-out to the in-house video feeds) for one night.
You got to escape into the usual routine of analyzing teams’ selections of top college players, pretending you’re Mel Kiper Jr. and have been pouring over X’s and O’s all year. You got to envision that top selection leading your squad to the Super Bowl. You got to engage in the engrossing debate of who won the night and who lost.
We’re here to add fuel to that debate. Here are Complex’s winners and losers from Night 1 of the NFL Draft. Night 2 commences Friday at 7 p.m. on ABC, ESPN, and NFL Network.
Winner: Tampa Bay
The Bucs already replaced 30-INT-tossing Jameis Winston with the GOAT. Look, we know Tom Brady is 42 (going on 43 in August!), but he’s still Tom Brady—and think about all the weapons around him. Evans. Godwin. Howard. Gronk. Jones. This team is going to be fun to watch.
But all those showy toys could be wasted if Tampa Bay can’t protect its new QB. The Bucs addressed that potential issue by trading up one spot, to No. 13, and taking Iowa tackle Tristian Wirfs. Wirfs is versatile, can play either tackle spot, and was projected to go in the top 10. Kiper’s most recent Mock Draft had him going No. 8.
Kiper had him as the first tackle off the board, but somehow he slipped to fourth despite a wildly impressive combine performance. This is a steal for Bruce Arians & Co. Wirfs is a Day 1 starter.
Tampa made the deal and gave up a fourth-rounder because San Francisco (which originally had the pick) was rumored to be mulling a replacement for Joe Staley. As Arians said, “no risk it, no biscuit.”
Loser: Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers had a very good campaign in Matt LeFleur’s first year, throwing for more than 4,000 yards with 26 TDs and four picks. He played a massive role in Green Bay reaching the NFC Championship Game. Yet Mr. Discount Doublecheck turns 37 this year, and it’s clear the Packers are planning for their next chapter.
During a draft day interview with Pat McAfee, Rodgers said he was hoping his squad would get him some help with a skill position player. This was noted as an especially strong group of receivers, and you know Davante Adams would love some help, too.
Yet Green Bay traded up from No. 30 to 26 pick to select Utah State QB Jordan Love, perhaps the most polarizing prospect in the draft. It took Rodgers a long time to win over the affection of the aging Brett Favre. We’ll see how Rodgers handles the addition of Love (our guess: not well), but one thing is clear: the Pack took the player they view as Rodger’s heir apparent.
Winner: Dallas Cowboys Offense
Dak Prescott already had two top skill position players in Ezekiel Elliott and Amari Cooper, not to mention an emerging Michael Gallup, who had 1,000-plus yards last season. And with the 17th pick Thursday, the Cowboys took a receiver in the first round for the first time since Dez Bryant in 2010—and they got a great one: Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb.
Jerry Jones said Lamb was the No. 6 player on Dallas’ draft board and America's Team turned down numerous trade offers for the pick.
“Lamb prevailed,” Jones said. “We just didn't want to miss him. Those trades ultimately are supposed to add another player to be valuable, but we couldn't trump him. He was just there. He’s a football player. He’s a playmaker. He just earned it.”
Many expected Lamb to be the first receiver off the board (Kiper had him second), but he fell to third. This was a major win for Prescott and the Cowboys offense. And yet...
Loser: Dallas Cowboys Defense
Lamb was the sexy pick. You know it’s going to be fun to watch him in that offense. The kid is electrifying.
But you also have to consider the downside. Dallas lost two vital defensive players, Byron Jones and Robert Quinn, in free agency. They could’ve taken LSU’s K’Lavon Chaisson to replace Quinn or OSU’s Damon Arnette to replace Jones, but they emphasized the offensive side of the ball.
“You can’t have enough playmakers,” new coach Mike McCarthy said. “Any time you can add a playmaker to your offense, it creates more opportunities for everybody else.”
We’ll just have to wait and see whether Dallas’ strategy of stockpiling offensive playmakers while hemorrhaging defensive assets pans out.
Winner: Miami Dolphins
Miami’s last Pro Bowl QB was Dan Marino. There was noise shortly before the draft that the Dolphins were leaning more and more toward Oregon’s Justin Herbert. There was also noise that some team would trade ahead of Miami and take Tua Tagovailoa.
And yet, in the end, the Dolphins end up getting a guy who might’ve been QB1—ahead of even Joe Burrow—were it not for health concerns. Tua has been a blue-chip NFL prospect since his freshman year at Bama (remember that epic National Championship Game-winning heave?), whereas Herbert is a less proven commodity, and Brian Flores now has his franchise QB down in South Beach.
With Fitzmagic running it back, Tua will have time to ease onto the field, and there are no ‘win now’ expectations for Miami. You have to think this was the perfect scenario for both the Fins and Tua, who had a historically efficient college career and also has the leadership intangibles to serve as the face of the franchise. Time to break that Marino streak?
Loser: Top Running Backs
There were questions entering Round 1 about whether any running backs would be selected. Kiper had D’Andre Swift going No. 32, J.K. Dobbins No. 38, Jonathan Taylor No. 45, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire No. 52.
But Edwards-Helaire was surprisingly the one back selected, as Kansas City took him with the final pick of the first round. This has got to be an exciting situation for the young back, who joins Pat Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Damien Williams, and company in Andy Reid’s vaunted, Super Bowl-winning offense.
Yet you have to wonder why Kansas City took him so early. The other three top backs are likely scratching their heads, too.
Winner: Arizona Cardinals
The Cards are already looking stacked on offense, with Kyler Murray entering Year 2 after a promising rookie campaign, Kenyan Drake back for at least one year, DeAndre Hopkins joining the fold, and Larry Fitzgerald somehow staying productive into his 60s.
Now the Cardinals add the most versatile defensive player in the draft, as Clemson’s Isaiah Simmons fell to them at No. 8. Kiper had Simmons going No. 4 to Big Blue.
This pick was an absolute lay-up and he was only on the board because the top 7 teams had very specific needs, mostly on the offensive side of the ball. With Simmons and Chandler Jones, the Cardinals have a couple studs on defense to join their suddenly impressive offense.
Don’t sleep on a potential playoff run from Kliff Kingsbury & Co.
Loser: Philadelphia Eagles
Yes, the Eagles snagged some much-needed WR help when they took TCU's Jalen Raegor in the first round, but a lot of people were scratching their heads. Not because the Eagles took a WR, but because they picked Raegor instead of some other guys on the board, like LSU's Justin Jefferson. Look, Raegor might end up working out fine for the Eagles, but his scouting report weakness was drops and that's the last thing the Eagles need from an already weak WR core.
Winner: Minnesota Vikings
Let's call this the opposite of the Eagles night. The Vikings were patient and landed Justin Jefferson to replace Stefon Diggs. That's a legit homerun for them. Even better, they were able to trade back, pick up some extra picks and grab one of the top DBs on the board in Jeff Gladney. Just an overall huge night for the Vikings. And with the Packers basically not trying to help Aaron Rodgers right now, the Vikings look like a legit favorite in the NFC.
Loser: New Orleans Saints
This is almost as bad as the Packers trading up for a QB. Yes, the Saints got a nice prospect in Cesar Ruiz from Michigan, but they already had a legit center on their offensive line. Was this really a huge need? Why not bolster the defense or even add another WR to their already great offense? This was a head-scratching move from New Orleans with who else was on the board.