With the draft in the rear view and the 2020 NFL regular season schedule to be released on Thursday night, there is much to look forward to as a football fan even though most of it is still months away. One such thing many are looking forward to will be watching how the prospects we all studied, speculated over and argued about, fare on their new NFL teams.
As Colts fans we will have 16 opportunities to view not only the rookies that now call Indianapolis home, but 16 chances to take a look at all of those prospects we were just sure were going to be good or bad or somewhere in between. While we don’t know the exact schedule we do know the opponents the Colts will face next season, so we can take a look at who we might get to see make an impact against our boys in blue.
The Steelers head into 2020 expecting a healthy Ben Roethlisberger. How the 38 year old passer recovers from surgery to his throwing elbow is anyone’s guess but the Steelers did their best to give Big Ben some assistance in his effort to come back.
2020 Draft Class:
1st Round- Traded to the Miami Dolphins for Minkah Fitzpatrick
2nd Round (49 overall)- Chase Claypool, WR, Notre Dame
3rd Round (102 overall)- Alex Highsmith, EDGE, Charlotte
4th Round (124 overall)- Anthony McFarland, RB, Florida State
4th Round (135 overall)- Kevin Dodson, G, Louisiana-Lafayette
6th Round (198 overall)- Antione Brooks Jr., S, Maryland
7th Round (232 overall)- Carlos Davis, DT, Nebraska
Looking at their class the two most intriguing names at first glance (outside of Fitzpatrick) are Chase Claypool and Anthony McFarland. From a practical standpoint neither seem likely to make much of an impact as they join crowded skill position groups.
Other players of interest: Eric Ebron and Deon Cain. Ebron is a wildcard who may have a huge impact or he might IR himself before we get a chance to play him. Cain will once again face an uphill battle to make another NFL roster after being signed by the Steelers in the middle of the 2019.
The Bengals were just plain awful in 2019 but the 2020 off season might have been the cure the long struggling franchise has needed since the shine wore off of their 2015 12-4 campaign. Second year head coach Zac Taylor has to be excited about the direction the team is headed, after all, it can’t get much worse.
2020 Draft Class:
1st Round (1 overall)- Joe Burrow, QB, LSU
2nd Round (33 overall)- Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson
3rd Round (65 overall)- Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming
4th Round (107 overall)- Akeem Davis-Gaither, LB, Appalachian State
5th Round (147 overall)- Khalid Kareem, EDGE, Notre Dame
6th Round (180 overall)- Hakeem Adeniji, G, Kansas
7th Round (215 overall)- Markus Bailey, LB, Purdue
Everyone currently employed by the Bengals hopes that Joe Burrow is the type of quarterback that can transform a franchise. Even still most rookie quarterbacks struggle early in their career, barring a few exceptions. Second round pick Tee Higgins figures to split time with A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate and John Ross III who had more than 500 yards in just 8 games last season. Wilson and Davis-Gaither could have the most immediate impact of anyone other than Burrow purely due to opportunity.
Other players of interest: Tackle, Jonah Williams. Williams was considered by many to be the top ranked tackle in the 2019 draft. The Bengals selected him with the 11th overall pick. Williams then went on to miss the season after having surgery on an injured shoulder.
The Browns head into 2020 after a disastrous 2019. Baker Mayfield, Nick Chubb and Odell Beckham Jr. will do their best to ensure that doesn’t happen again. Browns new head coach Kevin Stefanski has to feel good about the talent his team possesses. If he is able to win in Cleveland they’ll build statues of him, if not, he might be looking for another job in 2021.
2020 Draft Class:
1st Round (10 overall) Jedrick Wills, T, Alabama
2nd Round (44 overall) Grant Delpit, S, LSU
3rd Round (88 overall) Jordan Elliott, DT, Missouri
3rd Round (97 overall) Jacob Phillips, LB, LSU
4th Round (115 overall) Harrison Bryant, TE, Florida Atlantic
5th Round (160 overall) Nick Harris, C, Washington
6th Round (187 overall) Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan
Wills is the jewel of the Browns class as one of, if not the best tackle prospect available in the 2020 draft. Wills played on the right side at Alabama but many have speculated that he may have the ability to play left tackle at the next level. That projection will be tested early on as Wills is penciled in as Baker Mayfield’s blindside protector on day one.
Grant Delpit was considered by many to be the top safety in college football coming into the 2019 season. While Delpit disappointed during his final season at LSU, he is a talented prospect who fills an immediate need for the Browns at free safety. Meanwhile a third round pick also out of LSU, linebacker Jacob Phillips, will have every opportunity to play meaningful snaps in year one.
Other players of interest: guard Wyatt Teller, tackle Jack Conklin and tight end Austin Hooper. Teller played for the Browns in 2019 starting 9 games after the Buffalo Bills sent him and a seventh round pick to Cleveland for a fifth and sixth round picks. Teller will get his shot to start a full season and his scouting report coming out of Virginia Tech has been giving fans hope that the athletic freak of a guard will finally put it all together.
Meanwhile Jack Conklin will start next to Teller at right tackle after coming over from the Tennessee Titans via free agency. Conklin signed a massive deal, one he can’t possibly live up to but that’s not the point. Conklin will do his best to regain his all-pro form and hold down the right side of the line.
Austin Hooper was the other big money free agent the Browns signed this off season. How he and David Njoku will be used together remains to be seen but covering both talented tight ends could prove to be challenging.
The Baltimore Ravens 2019 rushing attack was historic in so many ways. League MVP Lamar Jackson ran for more than 1200 yards and 7 touchdowns while throwing for 3,100 yards, 36 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions. As a team they rushed for 3296 yards while throwing for 3225. Even 30 year old Mark Ingram managed to rush for more than 1,000 yards and a 5.0 average. In an era of wide open passing the Baltimore Ravens have gone all in on physical, running, football and their draft class shows they don’t have plans to change their strategy.
2020 Draft Class:
1st Round (28 overall)- Patrick Queen, LB, LSU
2nd Round (55 overall)- J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State
3rd Round (71 overall) Justin Madubulke, DT, Texas A&M
3rd Round (92 overall) Devin Duvernay, WR, Texas
3rd Round (98 overall) Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State
3rd Round (106 overall) Tyre Phillips, G, Mississippi State
4th Round (143 overall) Ben Bredeson, G, Michigan
5th Round (170 overall) Broderick Washington, DT, Texas Tech
6th Round (201 overall) James Proche, WR, Southern Methodist
7th Round (219 overall) Geno Stone, S, Iowa
In the first round the Ravens filled a need by selecting the player who many believed to be the best inside linebacker in the draft. It would be very surprising to see anyone start in place of Patrick Queen. On day two the Ravens ensured they would be able to continue what they’ve started on offense by taking talented running back J.K. Dobbins. Devin Duvernay was a yards after catch machine at Texas and figures to provide big play potential on screens and short high percentage throws for Lamar Jackson. The selection of Tyre Phillips is similar to their selection of Orlando Brown Jr.. Not that Phillips will have that same sort of impact but the two players share many similarities as far as build and play style.
Other players of interest: Calais Campbell and Derek Wolfe. The good news is Campbell is no longer in the AFC South (formerly with the Jacksonville Jaguars) and our Colts don’t have to plan for him twice in 2020. The bad news is they will still see the 6’8” monster pass rusher. Wolfe arrived in Baltimore after an 8 year stint with the Denver Broncos. He is coming off of a career high 7 sacks in 2019 and together with Campbell the Ravens gave opponents a lot to think about with these two acquisitions.
The AFC North added a lot of talent in last month’s draft and our Colts will have to plan accordingly. As of today which additions do you feel will give the Colts the most trouble? Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow? The Ravens J.K. Dobbins?
These are questions Frank Reich and Matt Eberflus are no doubt having to answer, too. How they decide to attack these problems will be fun to watch all season long.