The first round of the 2020 NFL Draft finished with a bang when the Kansas City Chiefs selected former LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire at pick 32. It was (and will be) a polarizing pick as the offseason moves forward — but it followed what the rest of the AFC West did with their first-round picks.
All three division foes used their initial draft selection to add to their offense — both for the short-term and long-term. But Chiefs general manager Brett Veach insisted that it didn’t change their plans for pick 32.
“I don’t know if it really affects our draft plan because I think we stick to just wanting to work on our team and our roster,” Veach claimed after Thursday night’s first round. “And I think having the opportunity to win a Super Bowl, I don’t think we’re competing against all 31 teams.”
It’s obvious why the teams that play the Chiefs twice a year wanted to strengthen their offense.
“Yeah, I think teams certainly, they have to score some points against us,” Veach remarked. “I think even if you have a really good defense, it’s hard to stop our offense. So, I think teams are certainly ready for a track meet when they play the Chiefs.”
These picks definitely increased the chance that future AFC West matchups are up-tempo, high-scoring affairs. Let’s look at what each team did:
First, the Chargers decided to stay put at pick six and obtain their quarterback of the future: former Oregon Duck Justin Herbert. The third quarterback taken in the draft looks the part of a franchise guy. His 6’6” 240-pound build is combined with good athleticism and an aesthetically-pleasing throwing motion — a prospect similar to Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen.
Like Allen, Herbert has a chance to start for a team capable of going to the postseason — but would ideally need a very good supporting cast. Buffalo had that for Allen in 2019 — and the Chargers are working on it. Their defense is riddled with top-end talent, the receiving corps is star-studded — but they are lacking up front on the offensive line.
During his Oregon career, Herbert was fortunate enough to play with one of the best front-fives in college football — so out of the gate, the drop in pass protection may hinder him. Los Angeles did trade their second and third-round picks to trade up into a first round with plenty of talented offensive tackles remaining — but they instead opted to address their defense with former Oklahoma linebacker Kenneth Murray.
At the 12th overall selection, the Raiders used their first pick to get the player in the 2020 draft who is most like the Chiefs’ star receiver Tyreek Hill: Alabama wide receiver Henry Ruggs III. This was the kind of pick that would have made late Raiders owner Al Davis a happy man. Ruggs has blazing speed — shown by his 4.27 second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine — which, for him, was a disappointing time.
It’s obvious Raiders head coach Jon Gruden is getting jealous that his old friend — Chiefs head coach Andy Reid — gets to draw up plays with some of the fastest players in football. And if the Raiders want to win, they’ll need to score more than the 19 points they accumulated in their two 2019 matchups with the Chiefs.
The problem is that current Raiders starting quarterback Derek Carr isn’t known for his deep-ball ability — and in terms of average depth of target, is one of the most conservative quarterbacks in the NFL. It’s possible that the lack of a deep threat made him turn conservative, but only time will tell.
The Raiders used their second first-round selection to pick up former Ohio State cornerback Damon Arnette — a player who has good tools but lacks long speed. That may come back to bite them when he’s covering someone wearing the red and gold uniform of the Legion of Zoom.
Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos selected an offensive weapon that will bring immediate results: Alabama wide receiver Jerry Jeudy, who many evaluators identified as the top receiver in the class. You won’t need to wait to see Jeudy produce.
He excels in route running, with explosive cuts and stop-on-a-dime quickness that allows him to get open from any receiver position. For his playing style, he has unique length and overall size — and fits really well into a top-heavy group of Denver playmakers:
Emerging star receiver Courtland Sutton will make his money, catching passes at the intermediate to deep levels of the field. Second-year tight end Noah Fant’s athleticism will continue to allow him to find success at all levels in the middle of the field. Jeudy will be able to get open close to the line of scrimmage in short-area situations — and do it from the slot or the outside. He will be a welcomed, reliable target for second-year gunslinger Drew Lock.
While all three of the big-name offensive players taken in the rest of the division look like impactful players for the future, Veach sounded pretty confident about how quickly Edwards-Helaire will produce, too.
“We don’t want that learning curve to be so steep,” he explained. “Clyde was a guy with high football IQ, high football character, dynamic playmaker, can step in right away, have him under contract for five years.”
Just when the three other AFC West teams thought they had improved their chances at keeping up with Kansas City’s offense, the Chiefs’ signing of Edwards-Helaire sprinkled a few more points onto their per-game total against division teams — which should help them tighten their grip on the AFC West.