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7 things every fan needs to know about the 2020 NFL Draft

Here’s our draft guide for NFL fans who don’t watch an outrageous amount of college football.

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Panoramic View of Las Vegas Nevada at night with neon from Paris Eifel Tower view spot Photo by: Visions of America/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Not everyone is a fan of both college football and the NFL. Even if you are, it’s tough to follow everything.

Those lucky enough to have the time for both sports can still go into the NFL Draft not knowing what to expect. Nobody can watch every player, after all.

So, whether you need a simple refresher or a crash course about this year’s draft, I’m here to help. These are the seven things you need to know about the 2020 NFL Draft:

1. It’s in Las Vegas!

The Raiders are new residents of Nevada after relocating from Oakland. Their unofficial welcome party is the 2020 NFL Draft, which will be held on the Las Vegas Strip.

The main stage where new draft picks will hug Roger Goodell and hold up a jersey with their name on it will be next to Caesars Forum. The red carpet where soon-to-be draftees will show off clean suits and fancy shoes will be IN THE DANG BELLAGIO FOUNTAIN!

The NFL Draft usually has a fair share of ridiculousness. There have been animals announcing picks (much to now-Raiders general manager Mike Mayock’s frustration) and former NFL players trolling rival fans. That’s especially the case now that the league moves the draft from city to city and each host gets a chance to put its stamp on the event.

Before stopping off in Las Vegas, the draft was held in Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, and Nashville. Next year, it’ll be Cleveland.

2. Here are the important draft dates

In the months prior to draft night, every prospect will be poked, prodded, interviewed, and tested by all 32 teams.

That process already got started for the players who participated in the Senior Bowl, NFLPA Bowl, East-West Shrine Bowl, or another college football all-star game. For most everyone else, it will start at the NFL Combine.

A total of 337 players were invited to Indianapolis for this year’s combine. It’ll begin Feb. 23 when the quarterbacks, receivers, and tight ends check in, although drills won’t start until a few days later. The full NFL Combine schedule can be seen here, but what most fans care about is the on-field workouts. These are the dates for each position group:

  • Thursday, Feb. 27: Quarterbacks, receivers, tight ends
  • Friday, Feb. 28: Running backs, offensive linemen, special teamers
  • Saturday, Feb. 29: Defensive linemen, linebackers
  • Sunday, March 1: Defensive backs

After that, players will hold private workouts with teams and perform at pro days throughout March and into early April.

The grand finale will be the 2020 NFL Draft, a three-day event at the end of April:

  • Thursday, April 23: Round 1
  • Friday, April 24: Rounds 2-3
  • Saturday, April 25: Rounds 4-7

It probably wouldn’t hurt to pay some attention to free agency, which begins March 18, either. Team needs and draft priorities can change when veterans land on new teams.

3. The top two picks may already be decided

The Cincinnati Bengals stumbled their way into a 2-14 record and decided right around Halloween that the Andy Dalton era was over. They wound up with the No. 1 pick in the draft, and that’s perfect because LSU quarterback Joe Burrow couldn’t be a better fit.

Burrow played high school football in The Plains, Ohio, less than a three-hour drive from Cincinnati. After transferring from Ohio State to LSU, Burrow put together arguably the best college football season ever when he led the Tigers to a national championship.

It seems like a foregone conclusion that he’ll be the Bengals’ pick at No. 1 overall.

The second pick looks just as inevitable with Washington and Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young. The team took quarterback Dwayne Haskins in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft and will presumably select the top non-quarterback of the class.

Young is that player by a significant margin after recording 16.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss during the 2019 season. He was the only Heisman Trophy finalist who didn’t play quarterback. It’d be a shock if Washington didn’t want to add Young to a defense that was 27th in yards and points allowed.

So expect to see mock draft after mock draft with Burrow and Young going 1-2. Dan Kadar is already getting bored.

4. Burrow’s not the only promising quarterback in the class

For a long time, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was the clear favorite to be the first pick of the 2020 NFL Draft. So much so that when the Dolphins stripped their roster bare for draft picks and cap space, it was called the “Tank for Tua” strategy.

But things changed. Burrow couldn’t be stopped and Tagovailoa suffered a season-ending hip injury in November.

While Tagovailoa won’t be the first off the board, it doesn’t mean he’ll have to wait long to hear his name called. He’s still expected to be a top-five pick, especially with reports that his recovery from hip surgery is going well. Miami might even land Tagovailoa, despite somehow winning five games.

Those two are just the tip of the quarterback iceberg, though. There’s also:

  • Justin Herbert (Oregon): He’s a four-year starter who stands 6’6 and has a Carson Wentz-esque skillset. He was the MVP at the Senior Bowl in January and could be the Chargers’ ideal replacement for Philip Rivers.
  • Jordan Love (Utah State): He’s athletic, has a cannon for an arm, and isn’t afraid to be creative. Calling him the next Patrick Mahomes is awfully optimistic, but Love has (understandably) enjoyed that comparison. “We’ve both got strong arms,” Love told the Indy Star. “He obviously makes ridiculous throws, off-schedule, stuff like that. It’s something I’ve seen and tried to model my game after.”
  • Jake Fromm (Georgia): In three years at Georgia, Fromm led the team to the Rose Bowl once, the Sugar Bowl twice, and the national championship game in January 2018. According to ESPN’s Mel Kiper, “the easiest comp in this draft is Jake Fromm to Andy Dalton.”
  • Jacob Eason (Washington): A knee injury cleared the way for Fromm to take Eason’s job at Georgia. Eason then transferred to Washington and started one season before declaring for the draft. He’s 6’6 with ridiculous arm strength, but has limited experience and struggled against pressure in the latter half of the 2019 season.

All four of those players have a shot at joining Burrow as first-round picks in April.

5. The draft class is loaded at wide receiver

There were two receivers taken in the first round of each of the last two drafts. None of them were top-20 picks.

In 2019, it was Marquise Brown (Ravens) and N’Keal Harry (Patriots) toward the end of the first night. And in 2018, D.J. Moore (Panthers) and Calvin Ridley (Falcons) were late first-round selections.

The 2020 NFL Draft should be much different for receivers.

Kadar’s latest mock draft has six receivers going in the first round: Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy, Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb, Alabama’s Henry Ruggs III, Colorado’s Laviska Shenault, Clemson’s Tee Higgins, and LSU’s Justin Jefferson.

There’s also TCU’s Jalen Reagor and Penn State’s K.J. Hamler, who have been in the first round of Kadar’s earlier mocks. Arizona State receiver Brandon Aiyuk landed No. 33 overall in a two-round mock.

It’s not just the first round either. All that talent at the top will push quality receivers into the middle rounds too.

It’s a good year for teams that want to jumpstart their passing games in the draft.

6. It’s a mediocre draft for tight ends and running backs

This class has a group of tight ends who will probably be second-day selections — like Cole Kmet of Notre Dame and Hunter Bryant of Washington — but it’d be surprising if any landed in the first round.

There’s a better chance at a running back going early, even if there won’t be any Saquon Barkley, Leonard Fournette, or Ezekiel Elliott in the top five. While Georgia’s D’Andre Swift and Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins are the best at the position, neither was in Kadar’s most recent mock. One or both could still catch the eye of a team picking in the back half of the first round, however.

7. The Dolphins are the draft capital kings

Selling off most of the quality players on the roster was all part of the Dolphins’ tanking plan. They still managed to win five games, and now they enter the offseason with the most cap space in the NFL and a haul of draft picks.

Miami owns the Nos. 5, 18, and 26 picks in the first round, as well as the Nos. 39 and 56 picks in the second round.

The Raiders and Jaguars are the other two teams with multiple first-rounders, thanks to trades that moved Khalil Mack and Jalen Ramsey, respectively.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Texans and Rams are the only teams without a top-50 pick. The 49ers still own their first-rounder, but they don’t have another selection until the fifth round.

Compensatory picks will be announced soon, which probably won’t help the 49ers much. It should be a boon to the Patriots’ stockpile of picks, though.