2020 N.F.L. Draft: What We Learned

The 85th N.F.L. draft might have lacked the glitz of the Las Vegas Strip and bro-hugs with Roger Goodell, but the first virtual draft in league history still had its football pyrotechnics. There were a few chip shots, like quarterback Joe Burrow getting picked first overall by the Cincinnati Bengals. But there were also plenty of other surprises and intrigue — not all of it generated by the Raiders.

Perhaps Rodgers can fend off Love, as Tom Brady did in New England with Jimmy Garoppolo, forcing Green Bay to deal the Utah State quarterback for other assets. The Packers did not improve their 2020 team on Thursday night, and Rodgers — when not wondering why the team hasn’t picked an offensive skill player in the first round since, well, him — surely could question how he now fits into the Packers’ long-term plans.

Miami’s grand plan started taking shape during free agency, when it lured cornerback Byron Jones, linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Elandon Roberts and the defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah. But it did not truly come to fruition until Thursday night, when the team could expend some of the draft capital it had compiled.

Jackson will bolster an offensive line that allowed 58 sacks last season, and Igbinoghene slides into the most improved secondary in the A.F.C. East. But Tagovailoa is the centerpiece, and for a team that’s been searching for a quarterback since Dan Marino retired, he represents an altogether fitting choice.

By shedding talent last off-season, the Dolphins chose an unpopular rebuilding path. They were chided and lampooned. It was a risk because weird things happen in the N.F.L. and even bad teams win sometimes. In the end, that strategy led them to Tagovailoa, who, because of health and durability concerns, is hardly a safe pick. But the Dolphins were rewarded for their aggressiveness once, and now they hope they will be again.

But as my colleague, Bill Pennington, noted, the Patriots will probably have to trade a top player to create salary cap space. They currently have about $1 million in cap space, which isn’t enough to sign even their incoming draft class. But packaging, for example, the All-Pro guard Joe Thuney with a valuable 2021 pick would free up $15 million in cap space.

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