NFL

2020 NFL Draft: Raiders, Dolphins and the teams under pressure to strike gold

By Sports Desk April 15, 2020

The NFL Draft is a crucial part of the team-building process, with this year as important as ever even though selections will be made remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With a dramatic free agency period now largely complete, contenders for Super Bowl glory in the 2020 season have already emerged.

The Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints are expected to feature prominently in the playoffs once more, with Tom Brady's arrival putting the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the mix as well.

All 32 teams understand the draft's importance, though while some of the top rosters may only need to fill one or two needs and ideally select the best player available, others are facing critical decisions that could alter the future of their franchise.

For the following eight teams, the pressure is on ahead of a 2020 draft that could impact their postseason chances, and the job security of those in charge, for many years to come.
 

Las Vegas Raiders

Armed with two first-round selections thanks to the Khalil Mack trade, the Raiders will pick at 12 and 19. Head coach Jon Gruden has had two losing seasons since signing his big-money contract, while Mike Mayock's first draft as general manager, that included three 2019 first-round picks, received mixed reviews on the evidence of last season. 

With question marks over whether Derek Carr will be the long-term quarterback, the Raiders need to give him weapons and will desperately hope to land one of the star receivers, CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs.

Secondary help with their other top pick could address another key need, with the Raiders in need of tangible progress in their first year in Vegas following the departures of Mack and Amari Cooper in exchange for draft assets over recent seasons.

New York Giants

The Giants will pick at number 4 this year, having selected at 2 and 6 over the past two years – a sign that all has not been well on the field. Running back Saquon Barkley and QB Daniel Jones have been their previous premium selections. An offensive tackle or versatile safety-linebacker hybrid Isaiah Simmons are seen as the most likely options this time around.

After the firing of head coach Pat Shurmur, pressure is on GM Dave Gettleman to hit with that pick and his selection at 36 for a roster still needing a significant injection of talent under Joe Judge. With no playoff win since their 2011 championship season, fans are growing impatient.

Miami Dolphins

After stripping the roster bare in 2019, free agency saw the Dolphins begin to use the salary cap space they had freed up, with Byron Jones lured from the Dallas Cowboys to be made the NFL's highest-paid cornerback. 

Now it is time for the Dolphins to start making the most of their masses of draft capital. They have three picks in the first round - 5, 18 and 26 – and three more across rounds two and three (39, 56 and 70).

They face a key decision regarding their long-term future at QB, with current starter Ryan Fitzpatrick only a bridge option. If they are happy with his medical reports, the Dolphins could trade up for Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa, stay at five to see if he drops, or instead go down a different route by taking Justin Herbert or Jordan Love with one of their three first-rounders.

That is a decision of paramount importance and with so many other selections in a deep class at tackle and receiver, it is a draft that, if they get it right, could catapult the Dolphins into being perennial AFC East contenders after the New England Patriots lost Brady.

Detroit Lions

Just nine wins in two seasons since arriving from the Patriots has Matt Patricia under pressure in Detroit. After trading Darius Slay to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Lions have been strongly linked with cornerback Jeffrey Okudah at number three overall.

With picks near the top of the second and third rounds too, and number 85 picked up as part of the deal for Slay, Lions GM Bob Quinn has options, including trading down from three. This is a pivotal draft in the team's rebuild.

Atlanta Falcons

The Saints have won the NFC South for three straight seasons and Brady's arrival with the Bucs gives the division another powerhouse. 

That leaves the Falcons in a difficult spot, given they have underwhelmed since their Super Bowl collapse at the end of the 2016 season. The Falcons are not rebuilding, and the clock is ticking for them with QB Matt Ryan now 34 and star wideout Julio Jones 31. 

Unlike many of the other teams in this list, the Falcons are not blessed with extensive draft capital, with only number 15, 47 and 78 in the top 100. GM Thomas Dimitroff may have to pull off something special if his team are to keep pace with divisional rivals led by Brady and Drew Brees.

New England Patriots

All eyes are on the Patriots after Brady's departure. Bill Belichick has given little away, this draft will tell us if he plans to draft an immediate successor, with his other options being rolling with Jarrett Stidham at QB in 2020, and potentially beyond, or signing a free agent like Cam Newton.

The Patriots have a pick at 23 that is prompting huge debate, given they are not scheduled to make another selection until number 87. If they go QB in the first round, it will leave the roster without star offensive weapons, one of the factors that frustrated Brady towards the end of his tenure.

Belichick has praised the depth and quality of the QB class and could wait to see if a developmental option under center is available in the middle rounds while selecting an immediate contributor at another position in round one. Or, he could do nothing and build around Stidham or a veteran recruit.

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars are one of the most intriguing teams in this year's draft with picks at nine and 20, as well as a second-round selection at 42. Trading away Nick Foles appeared to indicate Gardner Minshew will be unchallenged at QB, but would that remain the case if the team have a high grade on Herbert or Love and either fall into their lap?

Jacksonville's defense is in a complete rebuild after last season's Jalen Ramsey trade was followed by the offseason exits of A.J. Bouye and Calais Campbell, while more receiving options for Minshew are also needed.

Two frustrating seasons have followed their AFC Championship berth and the pressure is on - this draft must set foundations to move the team towards contending again.

Minnesota Vikings

While Kirk Cousins' big-money contract extension removes any questions about the Vikings' future at quarterback, they go into the draft with some glaring needs.

The evaluations on whether they were wise to trade away Stefon Diggs to the Buffalo Bills will be based on how they replace him with a historic class of a receivers to choose from. Cornerback reinforcements are a key requirement on the defensive side of the ball.

Having renewed their commitment to Cousins and with the Green Bay Packers to chase down in the NFC North, the Vikings - who pick at 22 and 25 in the first round - need to hit at those priority positions if they are to compete this year.

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