Virtual 2020 NFL Draft

Sam Nemec

The sports world has been put on pause for over a month now, but fans of the National Football League (NFL) will get their fix when the 2020 NFL Draft takes place from Thursday, April 23 to Saturday, April 25.

With the nationwide lockdown still in place, this year’s draft will be unlike any other. While originally scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, in order to abide by the social distancing guidelines, this year’s draft will now occur virtually. Commissioner Roger Goodell will announce the selections from his own basement. Coaches and front office members will conduct their drafts from their homes by making picks online, and they are not even allowed at team facilities. Players won’t have the opportunity to walk across the stage to shake Goodell’s hand when selected, and they will likely have cameras set up at their homes.

The unusual circumstances around this year’s draft have had those around the league voicing some concerns. John Harbaugh, head coach for the Baltimore Ravens, expressed worries about the security of an all-online draft and the risks of being hacked or information being leaked out. Besides technology, there are concerns about just how successful teams will be in making their picks. College pro days and in-person meetings were unavailable, making the only way for teams to speak with prospects through virtual interviews. Plus, teams are unable to have their medical personnel examine prospects coming into the draft with injury history and concerns.

It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. While the top two picks seem to be locks—(QB) Joe Burrow (LSU) going 1st overall to the Cincinnati Bengals and (EDGE) Chase Young (Ohio State) 2nd to the Washington Redskins—the picks to follow are still up in the air.

With that being said, like many other Green Bay Packer fans, I decided to run a five-round mock draft. Courtesy of thedraftnetwork.com who does a predictive board simulation for the 31 other teams based off team needs. Taking the same approach of team needs and considering the draft tendencies of the past from the Packers. I addressed the two biggest needs for them: 1) Getting Aaron Rodgers more weapons. 2) Adding capable players to fix the run defense.

PACKERS MOCK DRAFT

1st: Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State: Explosive.  Slot weapon. Vertical threat.

Aiyuk offers just what the Packers have been missing: a wideout in the slot that is a homerun threat whenever he touches the ball and can challenge defenses vertically. Watch his tape and you’ll become a fan. Not to mention, he’s a perfect fit for coach Matt LaFleur’s offense with his versatility and can quickly become one of Rodger’s favorite targets.  

2nd: Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State: Physical and aggressive. He can help run defense. Great tackler.

With the release of Blake Martinez from the middle linebacker position, they must fill that void. Harrison was the leading tackler for the Buckeyes and was first-team All-Big Ten. He’s a solid complement to the newly added LB Christian Kirksey. The two should make for stout run defense and improved pass coverage from the linebacker core.

3rd: Jason Strowbridge, DT, North Carolina: Run defender. Strong. Great hands. Pass rush potential.

Again, another pick to fix the Packers run defense. Strowbridge poises a physical challenge with his length and toughness. He can penetrate and disrupt blocks to make impacts in both the run and passing game. Run defense is his strength, but his hand skills show promising growth in the pass rush. It’s also worth mentioning he’s blocked four kicks over his last three seasons.

4th: Albert Okwuegbunam, TE, Missouri: 4.49. Threat up the seam. Red zone threat. Good hands.

His combination of size (6’5’’, 258 lbs) and speed (4.49 40 yard dash) make him an appealing prospect for the Packers. Those attributes make him an instant threat in the middle of the field with seam routes and in the red zone. Strong hands make for great ball skills. Likely needs time to develop his blocking skills, but he has the make and builds to play a strong role in the offense.

5th: Quintez Cephus, WR, Wisconsin: Ball skills. NFL build. Solid route runner. Another weapon for 12.

Cephus was a standout wide receiver for the Badgers in 2019. His performances against Minnesota, Ohio State, and Oregon showed promise for him to find success in the pros. While Aiyuk adds an element missing from the Packers since Randall Cobb was here, Cephus has the potential to grow into a true WR2 down the road as a possession wideout. 23 bench reps turned heads at the combine, as well as the 38.5 vertical to go with it. Take the tools he has and put him under the mentorship of Davante Adams, he can blossom into a strong target for Rodgers down the road.