When the 2020 NFL Draft ended Saturday, it began what is likely to be an unusually quiet spring for football. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, there are no rookie camps for the newest players to report to, and offseason programs have gone virtual. But while the league's decision-makers turn their attention fully to figuring out how to have a season -- the first item on the agenda, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday night, is how to reopen team facilities -- the draft gave us plenty to look forward to, whenever teams gather again.
We may have a longer wait than usual, but these are the players and storylines I'm most excited about coming out of the draft.
1) All the quarterback sagas
Not just how No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow will fare in Cincinnati or when Tua Tagovailoa is ready for Miami, but Jalen Hurts in Philadelphia and -- most interesting of all -- Jordan Love in Green Bay. Whether or not Aaron Rodgers embraces him in a way Brett Favre did not embrace Rodgers when he was drafted in 2005, Love could be the heir apparent with a very long wait. The 36-year-old Rodgers is under contract for four more years, and the biggest problem with the first-round selection of Love is what he is not: a weapon the Packers could have used right now to enhance an existing playoff team. Still, Love's progress and the dynamics of the relationship between Rodgers and the Packers' braintrust are riveting.
Hurts' role is simpler. Carson Wentz, at 27 years old and locked in through 2024, should be the Eagles' franchise quarterback for years to come. But Wentz has played all 16 regular-season games just twice in his four years, famously missed the 2017 postseason when the Eagles won Super Bowl LII, sat out the 2018 playoffs with a back injury and, last season, played just nine snaps in the Eagles' wild-card loss to Seattle before he suffered a concussion. Hurts, taken in the second round, is the insurance policy the Eagles need. One more to watch: Jacob Eason with Indianapolis. The Colts made no secret of Philip Rivers being a bridge to a young quarterback of the future. Eason, a fourth-round pick, landed in one of the best spots imaginable for a developmental quarterback.
2) The speed of the Denver Broncos
Anybody who watched the Kansas City Chiefs last year knows that to stay with them, you had better be fast. The Broncos got the message. The three offensive skill position players Denver picked through the fourth round are burners who will delight quarterback Drew Lock. Receiver Jerry Jeudy (Round 1) is known for his route-running, but he also ran the 40 yard dash in 4.45 seconds and has great top-end speed. Receiver KJ Hamler (Round 2) ran an unofficial 4.27 40. And tight end Albert Okwuegbunam (Round 4), who is 6-foot-5 1/2 and 258 pounds, ran the 40 in 4.49 seconds, making him the fastest tight end at the NFL Scouting Combine.
3) John Lynch, 49ers general manager
He made huge changes to the roster, many of them during the draft. He replaced veteran defensive lineman DeForest Buckner (traded to the Colts for a first-round pick during free agency) with 14th overall pick Javon Kinlaw, a powerful pass rusher to team with Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead (after picking up extra capital in a one-spot downward swap with the Bucs). He traded up to draft Brandon Aiyuk, an ascending wide receiver with great speed and a vast wingspan, 25th overall, then shipped receiver Marquise Goodwin to the Eagles on Saturday.
Kinlaw and Aiyuk could take time to develop. Lynch's blockbuster Saturday move will not. He stole premier left tackleTrent Williams, who might be the best player at any position available during the draft, from the Washington Redskins for a fifth-round pick this year and a third-rounder next year. The importance of that became very clear when Joe Staley announced his retirement soon thereafter. Then Lynch traded running back Matt Breida from a crowded backfield group, snagging a fifth-rounder (used on tackle Colton McKivitz). The 49ers, coming off a heartbreaker in the Super Bowl, knew they faced tough decisions to stay on top of the NFC. Lynch has handled them about as well as anybody could.
4) The Carolina Panthers' defense
Yes, new head man Matt Rhule is an offensive coach. But the Panthers addressed that side of the ball in free agency, signing quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, acquiring tackle Russell Okung and extending running back Christian McCaffrey. Reminder: The Panthers' defense collapsed last year, ranking 31st in points allowed, with five of their 11 losses coming by at least 20 points. Every one of their seven draft picks was used on a defensive player, the first time in the common draft era that has happened, and we'll probably be hearing a lot about defensive tackle Derrick Brown (drafted seventh overall) and edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos (38th overall, in Round 2) right away.
5) Football in Florida
We have been waiting for the transformation of the Miami Dolphins for a full year, as the front office dismantled the roster while Brian Flores coached what he had to an overachieving five victories. They got their quarterback (Tagovailoa, taken fifth overall) and a tackle to protect him (Austin Jackson, No. 18) in the first round, but they also got a physical cornerback (30th overall pick Noah Igbinoghene), who will join one of the best secondaries in the league, which already features Xavien Howard and free-agent signee Byron Jones. The Dolphins' defense has been almost entirely overhauled (Kyle Van Noy, Emmanuel Ogbah and Shaq Lawson are other new arrivals), while the trade for Breida filled a hole at running back. Watching Flores coach this much talent after squeezing as much as he did out of last season will be one of the big themes of the season.
The overhaul in Tampa wasn't quite as sweeping, but the names are in even brighter lights. The Bucs traded for Rob Gronkowski a few days before the draft to join Tom Brady and then, just as importantly, traded up to get one of the most highly regarded offensive tackles in the draft in Tristan Wirfs (No. 13 overall). The Bucs were 7-9 last season after losing two games in overtime, and they had the third-ranked offense in the league with a quarterback who threw 30 interceptions. With Bruce Arians designing an offense for this group, this might be the most fun on offense we see this side of Kansas City.