As a part of our partnership with ESPN, this is a part of a story that was originally published on ESPN+ and can be viewed in its entirety here with your ESPN+ subscription — Ranking the NFL's most productive 2020 rookie draft classes from 1 to 32
Whether it's in the first round or the sixth round, finding value above expectation in the NFL draft can significantly alter the landscape of a franchise. It is easier to do that with a wealth of draft capital, of course, but it's important how much a team can get from its draft picks relative to where they were taken rather than just blindly adding together all the production from the class.
If Player X and Player Y have similar seasons, the production from Player Y, taken in the sixth round, is much more valuable than the production a team gets from first-round-pick Player X.
Why they're ranked here: Quarterback Joe Burrow (No. 1 overall) finished the 2020 NFL season as the second-most valuable first-round rookie, while wide receiver Tee Higgins (No. 33 overall) ranked second among second-round selections. Both players far exceeded the production that was expected of them, and Burrow was on pace to be the most valuable rookie in the entire class this year before suffering a season-ending knee injury in Week 11.
How their top pick fared: Despite missing nearly the entire second half of his rookie campaign, Burrow still finished as the 16th most valuable quarterback in the NFL. His deep ball wasn't as finely tuned as it was in his historic 2019 season at LSU, but he was on the money on just about every other throw. In fact, he recorded the sixth-best passing grade in the NFL this year when throwing between 1 and 19 yards downfield. Burrow also recorded the lowest rate of quarterback-fault incompletions (4%) from a clean pocket this season, two percentage points better than any other NFL quarterback in 2020. The future is bright for the Bengals with Burrow leading the offense.
Why they're ranked here: The Colts might not have had a first-round pick to play with, but they still managed to rank in the top three when it came to WAR generated by non-quarterbacks taken within the first three rounds.
How their top pick fared: Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (No. 34 overall) was lethal on horizontal routes for Indianapolis in the regular season, ranking first in the NFL in yards per target (11.8) and second in yards after the catch per reception (7.5) on those routes. Still, Pittman was generally uninspiring on a per-game basis, averaging just 1.37 yards per route (71st of 99 qualifying wide receivers).
Best value pick: Julian Blackmon (No. 85 overall) flipped to safety during his final season at Utah after a few underwhelming years at outside corner, and the move really elevated his play. He recorded an 89.6 PFF grade in that final year while playing predominantly deep safety for the Utes, and he carried some of that success early into Year 1 in the NFL. Through the first 11 weeks of his pro career, Blackmon was the highest-graded rookie in the league by over nine grading points (73.0). Things went downhill for him the rest of the year, though, as he posted a 46.0 PFF grade from Week 12 through the end of the regular season.
Why they're ranked here: The Bucs hit home runs with offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs (No. 13 overall) and safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (45th overall). Wirfs has been putting up historically good numbers in pass protection, and Winfield finished the regular season as one of the five most valuable rookies from the 2020 class, per PFF WAR.
How their top pick fared: Wirfs wasn't just the best rookie tackle from the 2020 class; he was among the best we have ever seen in the PFF era. Entering Super Bowl LV, the former Iowa Hawkeye leads all right tackles in pass-block grade and comes in at No. 2 among all rookie right tackles in that metric since 2006 (Marshal Yanda, 2007, is No. 1).
Best value pick: Landing Winfield in the middle of Round 2 is the true definition of getting value. He provided a productive presence as a blitzer in Todd Bowles' defense with nine pressures on 58 rushes — two of which were strip-sacks — and he was among the best at his position against the run. Winfield finished the regular season with the second-highest run-defense grade at his position.
Why they're ranked here: Taking a running back in the first round is something we at PFF would never condone, but the Chiefs made up for it with a couple of value picks later on. Linebacker Willie Gay (No. 63 overall) and cornerback L'Jarius Sneed (No. 138 overall) surpassed their expected rookie-season WAR.
How their top pick fared: Clyde Edwards-Helaire didn't quite have the season many — mainly the fantasy community — expected, but he still finished 20th among 63 qualifying backs in rushing grade this season. He was even better on zone runs, jumping to 10th league-wide in rushing grade on such plays. That still doesn't justify taking him in the first round, but it's noteworthy nonetheless.
Best value pick: Sneed wasn't even one of the first 15 cornerbacks off the board in the 2020 NFL draft, yet he finished the regular season with the highest PFF grade of any rookie at the position. Including the postseason, Sneed has allowed just one catch to go for a 20-plus-yard gain while racking up three interceptions, four pass breakups and eight passing stops.
Why they're ranked here: The Football Team was the only franchise to have two rookies produce PFF grades above 80.0 this season: defensive end Chase Young (No. 2 overall) and running back Antonio Gibson (No. 66 overall). And while seventh-round pick Kamren Curl didn't hit that mark, he did generate the seventh-best WAR in the entire rookie class.
How their top pick fared: Young closed out the regular season on an absolute tear. From Week 12 through the end of the regular season he earned a 90.6 PFF grade that trailed only Khalil Mack for the best at the position. Get used to seeing that dominance continue, as it appears he'll be dominating for years to come.
Best value pick: Curl emerged in the second half of the season for the Washington Football Team and finished the regular season as the highest-graded safety from the 2020 rookie class. He logged more snaps in the box than any safety in the league from Week 9 on and ranked 14th of 56 qualifying safeties in PFF grade in the box over that span.
Why they're ranked here: Quarterback Justin Herbert (No. 6 overall) was the only Chargers rookie to make a massive impact right away and ranked 14th in WAR generated in 2020. The second of their two first-round picks, linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr., was subpar at best and earned just a 55.4 PFF grade as a starter, ranking 45th of 88 qualifying off-ball linebackers. Nine other rookies from Day 3 and the UDFA pool played for L.A. but all combined for negative WAR.
How their top pick fared: There were some doubts about Herbert's ability to immediately produce for the Chargers, but he silenced the critics convincingly in Year 1. Herbert earned a 78.6 passing grade through the regular season, tying for 12th in the NFL and ranking as the sixth-best mark we have ever recorded from a rookie. However, his performance was fairly reliant on plays under pressure — his 75.4 grade under pressure was actually the best in the NFL — which is slightly concerning given that play under duress is extremely volatile from year to year.
Why they're ranked here: Minnesota had more draft picks in the 2020 NFL draft than any other franchise, with a whopping 15. Only five of those 15 played significant time, but there were two from that handful that really surpassed expectations: wide receiver Justin Jefferson (No. 22 overall) and cornerback Cameron Dantzler (No. 89 overall).
How their top pick fared: While Jefferson was a first-round pick, no one quite expected him to end up as the best-performing rookie of the 2020 class. He finished the regular season with an elite 90.5 receiving grade that trailed only Davante Adams for the best in the NFL and was just shy of the rookie record set by Odell Beckham Jr. in 2014 (91.2).
Best value pick: Dantzler, like every rookie corner, endured a bit of a roller-coaster season but still provided more high-end play than any other rookie corner this year. Dantzler's Week 13 performance against Jacksonville and his Week 15 showing against Chicago were the two best single-game PFF grades we saw from a rookie corner this year.
Why they're ranked here: Despite not having a first-round pick, Pittsburgh still managed to rank in the top 10 in cumulative WAR generated by their rookie class this year. Their first pick, wide receiver Chase Claypool, was actually the seventh most valuable non-first-round rookie in the NFL this season, per PFF WAR.
How their top pick fared: Claypool was a big-play threat for Pittsburgh right out of the gate. He actually saw more deep targets than anyone in the NFL, including plays nullified by penalty. He may have ranked only 11th in total deep receiving yards (347), but Claypool drew two more defensive pass interference calls on deep targets than anyone in the league (seven). The latter is the second most we have recorded in the past decade.
Best value pick: Alex Highsmith (No. 102 overall) was hot and cold this season but managed to finish the regular season with a 72.0 PFF grade. That mark is over 11 grading points higher than Bud Dupree‘s mark in 2020 before his torn ACL. It's also nearly 30 grading points better than what we saw from Dupree as a rookie in 2015.
Why they're ranked here: The Bills were without a 2020 first-round pick, and defensive end A.J. Epenesa — the team's top selection in the draft — generated PFF WAR below expectation. And yet, Buffalo claims a top-10 spot. That's due in large part to running back Zack Moss (No. 86 overall), wide receiver Gabriel Davis (No. 128 overall) and cornerback Dane Jackson (No. 239 overall) producing well above expectation relative to their respective draft slots.
How their top pick fared: Epenesa struggled in run defense, posting a poor 50.4 grade across 130 such snaps. His pass-rushing output also left a lot to be desired. He recorded a 67.1 pass-rushing grade in 2020, with half of his 20 pressures being charted as unblocked or cleanup.
Best value pick: While Davis produced inconsistently from game to game, there were a handful of times this season where the fourth-rounder looked like anything but a Day 3 selection. He had three single-game grades above 84.0, joining Minnesota's Justin Jefferson as the only first-year receivers to accomplish that feat. Davis also ranked in the top three among rookies in 20-plus yard receptions (11).
Why they're ranked here: Brandon Aiyuk (No. 25 overall) was the saving grace of San Francisco's 2020 rookie class. He and interior defender Javon Kinlaw (No. 14 overall) were the only rookies on the roster with 300-plus snaps. Aiyuk was one of the five most valuable rookies of the entire 2020 NFL draft class and was among the 25 most valuable wide receivers in the NFL this season, per PFF WAR.
How their top pick fared: : Kinlaw came to the NFL with all the requisite physical tools but lacked pass-rush polish. Through Year 1, it's clear he still has some work to do in that regard. Kinlaw finished with a 58.0 pass-rush grade for the season that ranked 86th of 111 qualifying interior defensive linemen. He offered very little in run support, as well, with a 46.9 grade in that facet (95th).
11. Los Angeles Rams
Why they're ranked here: Despite the Rams having nine picks in the 2020 draft, their rookies played the fifth-fewest combined snaps among NFL teams. The group logged just over 1,400 total snaps in the regular season. And over half of those snaps played came courtesy of sixth-round safety Jordan Fuller, who generated twice as much PFF WAR as the rest of Los Angeles' rookie class combined.
How their top pick fared: Cam Akers, the 52nd overall pick, had his two best games of the season from a grading standpoint in the playoffs. Against Seattle in the wild-card round and Green Bay in the divisional round, Akers earned rushing grades of 72.7 and 88.1, respectively. Including those postseason games, he finished with a 77.6 rushing grade that ranked 22nd out of 60 qualifying running backs. That's not a bad mark, but he still didn't generate a significant amount of value for the Rams, especially considering where he was drafted.
Best value pick: Los Angeles grabbed Ohio State safety Fuller with the 199th pick, and he ended up playing more and better than any of the Rams' other first-year players. Fuller logged over 700 snaps and ended up finishing as the 16th-most-valuable rookie of the 2020 season, per PFF WAR.
12. Chicago Bears
Why they're ranked here: Second-round pick Jaylon Johnson was a bit of a roller-coaster in 2020, but he showed signs of life while other first-year cornerbacks struggled. Johnson gave up five touchdowns and 41 catches in 13 games for an average of 14.3 yards per reception, but he also ranked sixth among all outside corners in forced incompletion rate (21%). Tight end Cole Kmet, the Bears' other second-rounder, didn't have many positives, as he generated only 0.94 yards per route run and a 57.1 receiving grade.
How their top pick fared: Kmet was far from a big-play threat this season. A lot of his production stemmed from schemed slides and speed outs. He generated an explosive reception of 15-plus yards on just 4.3% of his targets. That's the fourth-lowest rate among 446 qualifying tight ends with at least 45 targets in a season since 2006.
Best value pick: No 2020 fifth-round pick generated more PFF WAR than the Bears' Darnell Mooney. The Tulane wide receiver wasn't uber-productive, but he did a great job of creating after the catch. He tied for the fourth-most broken tackles after the catch among wide receivers, with 17.
Why they're ranked here: Bill Belichick found another gem in the sixth round with Michigan offensive lineman Mike Onwenu, who produced the sixth-most PFF WAR of any non-first-round pick this season.
How their top pick fared: Kyle Dugger (No. 37 overall) came into the league facing a steep learning curve out of Division II Lenoir-Rhyne, but the safety held up in his first year at the NFL level against the run. His 73.6 run-defense grade placed him 17th among all safeties this season. He faltered in coverage, though, with a 55.4 grade in that facet (69th of 91). That was the leading factor in him generating negative PFF WAR.
Best value pick: Onwenu might just end up as the biggest steal in the entire 2020 draft when we look back on this class. Onwenu logged over 80 snaps at each of left guard, right guard and right tackle this season, and he performed well at all of them. The sixth-round pick posted a 79.0-plus grade at each of those three alignments. Onwenu excelled at right tackle in particular, despite not logging a snap at tackle in his four years at Michigan. He spent most of his rookie campaign there (616 snaps) and ranked 10th of 39 qualifying right tackles in PFF grade.
14. Atlanta Falcons
Why they're ranked here: While neither of the Falcons' Day 2 picks — defensive tackle Marlon Davidson (No. 47 overall) and center Matt Hennessy (No. 78 overall) — played all that well in their respective rookie campaigns, the Atlanta rookie class was still able to generate positive WAR as a whole. First-rounder A.J. Terrell didn't execute up to the standards of his position, earning a 57.0 coverage grade, but he did have more positives than you'd typically expect from a rookie, which led to him ranking second among first-year corners in PFF WAR generated. Atlanta also found some value in the fourth round with off-ball linebacker Mykal Walker, who finished eighth among Day 3 picks in PFF WAR generated.
How their top pick fared: Terrell, like many other rookie cornerbacks, was exposed at some points in Year 1. He allowed more yards in coverage (845) than any other outside cornerback in the league and was one of just 15 players at the position in the past decade to allow 10 or more plays to result in a 25-plus yard gain (10). Terrell did, however, counteract some of those chunk gains with plays of his own. He racked up 16 passing stops on the outside, the most among all NFL outside corners.
Best value pick: Walker started just a handful of games this season for the Falcons, but he undoubtedly exceeded expectations across his 387 snaps as a rookie. The fourth-round pick earned a 90.7 coverage grade, allowing only 74 yards while forcing an incompletion and a fumble. He also made five passing stops.
15. New York Jets
Why they're ranked here: Offensive tackle Mekhi Becton (No. 11 overall), the Jets' first pick in 2020, met expectations relative to his draft position, according to PFF WAR. Their third-round picks, safety Ashtyn Davis and outside linebacker Jabari Zuniga, however, fell well short of their expected rookie season WAR marks. On the other hand, second-round wide receiver Denzel Mims, fifth-round cornerback Bryce Hall and UDFA cornerback Javelin Guidry all provided more value than expected.
How their top pick fared: Becton was one of a handful of surprises this season. Yes, he was the 11th overall pick, but the fact he was rarely tasked with true pass sets in a play-action and screen-heavy offense at Louisville was a big concern. Needless to say, it was a shock to see the 6-foot-7, 369-pound tackle outperform in pass protection to the extent he did. Becton's grade on true pass sets ranked 13th-best among all left tackles this season.
Best value pick: Guidry appeared in only a handful of games down the stretch for the Jets (172 total snaps), but he looked like he might be a diamond in the rough from the undrafted pool in the 2020 class. He ended up generating more WAR than any rookie from New York's class and recorded a 76.5 coverage grade with just three first downs allowed to four passing stops. Take this with a grain of salt since it is an extremely small sample, but the former track star showed he might just be able to handle a slot role at the NFL level.
Why they're ranked here: The Saints lacked draft capital for the second straight season, resulting in just four picks in 2020 — one of whom is no longer with the team. In other words, their rookie class didn't have much of a chance to generate value above or below expectation. Tight end Adam Trautman (No. 105 overall) came away with the most PFF WAR of any of New Orleans' rookies, but that was largely due to his blocking rather than his receiving production (16 receptions, 175 yards, one touchdown).
How their top pick fared: Cesar Ruiz (No. 24 overall) was up and down in his rookie campaign, but unfortunately for him and the Saints we saw a lot more bad than good. Starting at right guard, Ruiz had a whopping six games in which he recorded a sub-40.0 pass-blocking grade. That led him to a 42.3 pass-blocking grade for the season, the fifth-worst mark among offensive guards.
Why they're ranked here: The Green Bay Packers made a few bold decisions in the 2020 draft, specifically with their first three picks. But that daring approach didn't pay off — at least not this season — as first-round quarterback Jordan Love, second-round running back AJ Dillon and third-round tight end Josiah Deguara combined for just 122 snaps. Undrafted free agent Krys Barnes played more than any Green Bay rookie but didn't find much success, earning a 43.7 PFF grade across 421 snaps. Similar to New Orleans, the Packers' class didn't have much of an opportunity to generate more or less value than expected.
How their top pick fared: Perhaps no 2020 NFL draft selection was more scrutinized than Jordan Love at No. 26 overall. And with Aaron Rodgers performing at an MVP level this season, Love failed to see the field. As a matter of fact, Love didn't dress for a single game this year; he served as the third-string quarterback, behind Rodgers and Tim Boyle.
18. Seattle Seahawks
Why they're ranked here: Damien Lewis, Seattle's third-round selection, still has a lot of room to grow, but he ended up as one of the 15 most valuable guards in the NFL this year. However, the rest of the Seahawks' rookie class enjoyed far less success. Second-round pick Darrell Taylor (defensive end) didn't play a down this season for Seattle, and first-round pick Jordyn Brooks (linebacker) hardly generated positive WAR on the year.
How their top pick fared: Brooks was fairly productive on his limited 367 regular-season snaps, making 21 defensive stops. He also missed just five tackles on 58 attempts. At the same time, though, Brooks' coverage performance was pretty ugly. He earned a 29.8 grade in that facet, the second-worst mark at the position.
Best value pick: Lewis didn't perform up to snuff when it came to pass protection. His 48.4 pass-blocking grade tied for 71st among 83 qualifiers this season. Yet, his run blocking was some of the best we saw at the position in 2020. His 81.5 mark came in at No. 6 among all guards, and even in the lone game where he played center — a position at which he had no experience — he provided stout run blocking. But if Lewis wants to take that next step to become a quality starting guard, he has to improve in pass protection.
19. Cleveland Browns
Why they're ranked here: Cleveland had four picks on Days 1 and 2 of the draft, but none of the players selected made a positive impact. Second-round pick Grant Delpit missed the campaign with a torn Achilles, and the other three — offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., defensive end Jordan Elliott and linebacker Jacob Phillips — all generated negative PFF WAR.
How their top pick fared: Entering his rookie campaign, Wills was expected to bring a lot of value to the table with his run blocking in Kevin Stefanski's wide zone attack while suffering through a learning curve when it came to true pass sets. The opposite occurred. Wills ranked 15th among left tackles in pass-blocking grade but fifth-to-last in run-blocking grade.
Why they're ranked here: Outside of first-round pick Isaiah Simmons, Arizona got virtually nothing out of its rookie class. Only two of the team's rookies played more than 50 snaps outside of Simmons, and neither impressed. Fourth-rounders defensive end Leki Fotu and nose tackle Rashard Lawrence were those two rookies, and both produced sub-50.0 PFF grades.
How their top pick fared: Simmons made a name for himself at Clemson as one of the most versatile defensive players college football has seen. Simmons' usage in Arizona wasn't nearly as diverse as it was with the Tigers, but he played considerably well when dropping into coverage. The No. 8 overall pick recorded a 69.9 coverage grade that ranked 19th among all off-ball linebackers. His tackling was also superb; he had just four misses on 49 total attempts.
21. Houston Texans
Why they're ranked here: No team had fewer snaps played by their 2020 rookie class than the Texans. Collectively, their rookies logged just 847 snaps this past season, around a third of the NFL average (2,555). This is largely due to Bill O'Brien trading away their 2020 first-round pick — along with their 2021 first- and second-round picks — to Miami for Laremy Tunsil prior to the 2019 season. None of the rookies who saw the field for the Texans this season performed particularly well, as they all failed to produce a PFF grade above 60.0.
How their top pick fared: Ross Blacklock‘s rookie campaign got off to a brutal start when he was disqualified toward the end of his second career game for unnecessary roughness. The interior defensive lineman never made up for that with his play. He recorded a lowly 30.2 PFF grade for the season across 254 snaps.
Why they're ranked here: Philly had 16 rookies record a snap, but none made a major impact for the 4-11-1 Eagles. Second-round quarterback Jalen Hurts did lead a more efficient passing offense than Carson Wentz, but he still had his fair share of struggles with a 57.5 passing grade.
How their top pick fared: Wide receiver Jalen Reagor battled through some bad quarterback play in his final season at TCU and went through the same in Year 1 as a rookie. At the same time, though, he didn't do much on his end, producing just a 64.2 receiving grade and 1.30 yards per route run.
Why they're ranked here: The reason Carolina isn't any lower than 23rd is because of one pick: safety Jeremy Chinn, who was selected 64th overall. Chinn played the second-most snaps on the defensive side of the ball among rookies this season and finished as one of the 10 most valuable non-first-round selections of the entire 2020 draft. Meanwhile, Derrick Brown (No. 7 overall), Yetur Gross-Matos (No. 83 overall), Troy Pride Jr. (No. 113 overall) and Bravvion Roy (No. 184 overall) all finished with WAR well below expectation.
How their top pick fared: Brown made a decent impact as a pass-rusher, but not so much when it came to defending the run. Among 111 qualifying interior defensive linemen this season, Brown ranked 26th in pass-rush grade and 77th in run-defense grade. It could have been better, but certainly could have been a lot worse for the top-10 pick.
Best value pick: Chinn racked up the seventh-most defensive stops at his position this regular season (30) and also the fourth-most instances as the first defender to contact (82). His rookie campaign wasn't without some flaws, though, as he still gave up six touchdowns in coverage and displayed poor run-defense with a grade of 47.2. That said, Chinn still showed promising signs for a former FCS player in his first year at the NFL level, and Carolina fans should be excited.
24. Dallas Cowboys
Why they're ranked here: To no surprise, wide receiver CeeDee Lamb (No. 17 overall) was the most valuable Cowboys rookie by a considerable margin and finished with a top-15 WAR generated in the entire rookie class. We can't completely ignore the rest of Dallas' rookie class production, however, even when it was a seventh-rounder, quarterback Ben DiNucci, who brought down the class significantly. DiNucci recorded only 51 dropbacks but finished with a lowly 25.6 PFF grade on those and generated the lowest WAR of anyone in the class.
How their top pick fared: Hauling in targets was an issue for Lamb. He tied for the fourth-most drops at the position with nine. Lamb did continuously exploit holes in zone coverage from the slot, though. No wide receiver generated more 15-plus-yard plays by finding a hole in zone coverage from the slot than him (nine). He hauled in 21 of 27 such targets for 325 yards, and none of his drops came on those targets.
25. Tennessee Titans
Why they're ranked here: There have been only 15 teams since 2006 that didn't have a single rookie play at least 300 snaps. One of those 15 teams was the 2020 Tennessee Titans. Seventh-round corner Chris Jackson played the most among this group of rookies with 241 snaps, and he was also the bottom performer with a 32.5 PFF grade.
How their top pick fared: Isaiah Wilson (No. 29 overall) played just three snaps in 2020 due to a variety of things, including off-the-field issues. The 6-foot-6, 350-pound tackle was a reach in our eyes, coming in at No. 111 on our final 2020 draft board.
26. Baltimore Ravens
Why they're ranked here: The most valuable rookie from Baltimore's 2020 class in regard to PFF WAR was second-round pick J.K. Dobbins, who ended up finishing the year 13th among all running backs in that metric. Still, that's not all that valuable considering the position he plays. Linebacker Patrick Queen (No. 28 overall) and offensive tackle Tyre Phillips (No. 106 overall) were among the 20 least-valuable rookies this season.
How their top pick fared: Queen closed out his first year in the NFL with the second-lowest PFF grade among all off-ball linebackers at 29.7. He did bring some value to the table with his blitzing prowess in Wink Martindale's blitz-heavy defense (21 pressures on 107 rushes), but his run-defense (29.0 grade) and coverage (30.2 grade) were poor.
27. New York Giants
Why they're ranked here: Fourth overall pick Andrew Thomas‘ 54.7 pass-block grade (second-worst among left tackles) didn't help the Giants, nor did any other rookie from the 2020 class. Darnay Holmes (110th overall) failed to crack the top 100 cornerbacks in PFF grade this season, and Shane Lemieux (150th overall) was the lowest-graded guard in the NFL with a 32.2 PFF grade.
How their top pick fared: While Thomas showed some progress during his rookie campaign, there were still way too many lows. He gave up five or more total pressures in five different outings en route to 57 total pressures allowed on the year. Ten of those resulted in a sack (most allowed by a tackle).
28. Miami Dolphins
Why they're ranked here: Miami's rookies played more snaps this past season than any other rookie class, yet there was very little positive play to speak of among the group. Their first-round picks — quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (No. 5 overall), tackle Austin Jackson (No. 18 overall) and cornerback Noah Igbinoghene (No. 30 overall) — all ranked in the bottom six at their respective position in PFF grade this season.
How their top pick fared: It's way too early to dismiss the possibility of Tagovailoa being a franchise quarterback, but it's still far from a guarantee considering his lowly Year 1. Tagovailoa finished the year with a 63.9 passing grade, well below the marks of fellow first-round quarterbacks Joe Burrow (74.3) and Justin Herbert (78.6). He struggled to get anything cooking downfield with the fourth-lowest accurate pass rate on throws of 10-plus yards and a league-low big-time throw rate of 2.1%.
Why they're ranked here: All seven of the Raiders' 2020 draft picks were selected within the first four rounds, and that group collectively ranked third-to-last in WAR generated among the 32 classes. Only one Las Vegas rookie generated positive WAR this season — wide receiver Bryan Edwards — and he barely eclipsed zero. The second of Las Vegas' two first-round picks, cornerback Damon Arnette, had a rough rookie campaign over nine games played. He finished as the lowest-graded outside corner in coverage this season, giving up 26 catches for 405 yards on 32 targets.
How their top pick fared: Henry Ruggs III showed off his elite speed on a handful of vertical routes. He helped generate seven explosive gains of 15-plus yards on vertical routes this year, the fourth-most in the rookie class. Even with those, Ruggs still managed only a 54.0 PFF grade (second-worst among all wide receivers).
30. Detroit Lions
Why they're ranked here: Their prized pick — Jeff Okudah — generated the worst WAR of any non-quarterback in the 2020 class. The other two rookies who played the most, guard Jonah Jackson (No. 75 overall) and defensive tackle John Penisini (No. 197 overall), also generated negative WAR.
How their top pick fared: Expectations for rookie corners should always be relatively low, but Okudah's performance after being taken third overall was far worse than anticipated. Okudah allowed 20 first downs and a league-worst 2.1 yards per cover snap at outside corner while making just three plays on the ball in nine games this season. There is a lot of ball left to be played for Okudah before anyone should be writing him off, but Year 1 was not great.
Why they're ranked here: Both of Jacksonville's first-round selections — cornerback CJ Henderson (No. 9 overall) and defensive end K'Lavon Chaisson (No. 20 overall) — generated value well below expectation this season. The most concerning of the two is Chaisson, as he finished sixth-to-last among all edge rushers in PFF grade this season at 49.7.
How their top pick fared: Henderson made a lot of noise in his NFL debut back in Week 1 with an 84.2 PFF grade, an interception and three pass breakups against the Indianapolis Colts. He was unable to find that kind of success again in 2020. The cornerback was limited to only seven more games in 2020 due to injury, and none of those seven single-game PFF grades came within 15 grading points of his Week 1 outing.
Best value pick: Laviska Shenault Jr. (No. 42 overall) was the only positive rookie performer for Jacksonville this season. He flashed the same running back-esque elusiveness that we saw from him back in his days at Colorado, as his 16 broken tackles after the catch were eighth-best among NFL wide receivers. The second-round rookie tacked on six more broken tackles on 18 runs. There weren't really any “blow-up” performances from Shenault this season, but he was impressive at the catch point. His grade on contested targets was the 12th-best in the league, and his 72.2% contested catch rate ranked second.
32. Denver Broncos
Why they're ranked here: There was not a single rookie in the Broncos' 2020 class to generate value above expectation. Their first four selections — wide receiver Jerry Jeudy (No. 15 overall), wide receiver K.J. Hamler (No. 46 overall), cornerback Michael Ojemudia (No. 77 overall) and center Lloyd Cushenberry III (No. 83 overall) — all played over 500 snaps, and all four failed to crack the 25th percentile at their respective position in PFF grade.
How their top pick fared: Jeudy's drop problems did him no favors. His 17.6% drop rate for the season was the second-worst in the NFL behind his teammate and fellow rookie Hamler at 17.9%. Jeudy did show off the route-running chops we saw from him at Alabama — the skill set that made him a first-round pick to begin with. Moral of the story: Jeudy had a bad rookie campaign but is still a prime breakout candidate for 2021.