2020 NFL Draft: How six teams without first-round picks can still have successful drafts

When creating mock drafts, you often have to remind upset readers that the NFL Draft is more than one round, and teams don’t always address their most glaring need in Round 1. And this year, there are six teams without a first-round selection, so for them, it really starts after the first round. 

Let’s evaluate how those teams can still ace their drafts. 

(Draft objectives are listed in order of importance.)

Buffalo Bills

Draft objectives: Get depth/potential long-term starters at CB and EDGE, competition for OL, look for WR value 
Draft capital: Seven picks – Round 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6, 7
First pick: Round 2, No. 54 overall

The Bills have built one of the best, deepest rosters in the AFC under the watchful eye of GM Brandon Beane. But his work isn’t done. 

Even with the depth additions of veterans Josh Norman and E.J. Gaines along with incumbent Levi Wallace, the No. 2 cornerback spot is far from settled and could use a long-term answer. Up front, with Jerry Hughes turning 32 and Mario Addison 33 in September, Buffalo has to get younger at the edge-rusher position. Even No. 3 outside rusher Trent Murphy turns 30 in December. 

Buffalo has a plethora of serviceable offensive line depth options, including recently signed Daryl Williams to go along with a logjam between Cody Ford and Ty Nsekhe vying for the right tackle job. But with Dion Dawkins — though likely re-signed — in the final year of his rookie deal and returning starting right guard Jon Feliciano also playing on the last year of his contract, Buffalo should bring in another talented blocker. 

While the Bills arguably have the best wide receiver trio in the conference with Stefon Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley, it’s still a group lacking size. And given the insane depth of this receiver class, if a big-bodied wideout they like falls, the Bills should strongly consider him.

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Pittsburgh Steelers

Draft objectives: Find offensive playmakers, search for a pass-rushing defensive lineman, grab OL depth, build for future at CB
Draft capital: Seven picks – Round 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 6, 7
First pick: Round 2, No. 49 overall

This will be a more critical season than most for the Steelers, which boosts the importance of this draft. Here’s why. Ben Roethlisberger is coming off a severe elbow injury and is 38 years old. Beyond that, 2021 free agents include JuJu Smith-Schuster, Joe Haden, Cam Heyward, Alejandro Villenueva, Matt Feiler, and James Conner. 

Currently, the Steelers have the fifth-lowest amount of cap space in football and are set to have the 10th-lowest figure in 2021, per Spotrac.com.

It’s not only a clear-cut “win-now” season for Pittsburgh, but the time is now to find foundational franchise building blocks for the future. At No. 49 overall, the Steelers should look to the edge to have that rookie join Bud Dupree and T.J. Watt before (likely) taking over for Dupree in 2021. However, if a top-flight receiver is still available, picking him would be a prudent decision even with Smith-Schuster, James Washington, and Diontae Johnson currently on rookie deals. 

The offensive line is good, but potentially in flux soon based on the impending free agents and age (David DeCastro and Maurkice Pouncey are both in their 30s), so finding more depth to pair with Chukwuma Okorafor, Derwin Gray and Zach Banner should not be ignored later in draft. 

Javon Hargrave won’t be easy to replace on the interior, and given Heyward being in the final year of his deal, finding a disruptive hand-in-the-dirt defensive lineman is a necessity, as is getting younger in the secondary, with Joe Haden 32. 

Los Angeles Rams 

Draft objectives: Prioritize EDGE early, plan for the future at CB, look for specific offensive linemen
Draft capital: Six picks – Round 2, 3, 3, 4, 6, 7
First pick: Round 2, No. 52 overall

The Rams today represent the league’s most striking example of why NFL stands for Not For Long. After aggressively shoving all of their chips to the center of the table — and nearly having it pay off by way of a Super Bowl win — the Rams’ roster needs a fair amount of reconstruction. 

With Dante Fowler gone, the edge rusher position needs to be prioritized relatively early. Don’t sleep on Obo Okoronkwo, but the presence of Leonard Floyd shouldn’t be enough to stop Los Angeles from doubling up on outside pass rushers in this class. 

As for the offensive line, we know Sean McVay needs agile, laterally athletic blockers over one-on-one maulers. Given Andrew Whitworth’s age, Austin Blythe entering a contract year and Brian Allen’s tenuous grasp on the starting center gig, the Rams should be peeking around for value up front in each round. 

Jalen Ramsey is likely to be re-signed, but the rest of the cornerback group is filled with uncertainty. Going cornerback with one of those third-round picks would be smart for the Rams, as they play in the high-powered NFC. 

Indianapolis Colts 

Draft objectives: Add offensive playmakers, add EDGE, think long-term at QB, find CB depth, don’t get complacent with OL
Draft capital: Seven picks – Round 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 6
First pick: Round 2, No. 34 overall

For years now, the Colts have had T.Y. Hilton and then a group of overachieving but ultimately limited secondary and tertiary wideouts. That needs to change, especially with 38-year-old Philip Rivers in Indianapolis on a one-year deal for the swan song of his career. 

Speaking of Rivers, the quarterback position can’t be forgotten when looking into the future. Brissett was average over the past two seasons and is on the final year of the extension he signed in 2019. Indianapolis truly is in position to draft a talented but raw quarterback and redshirt him for an entire season. 

The Colts need to improve off the edge when it comes to getting after the quarterback. Justin Houston is 31 and on the final year of his deal. Kemoko Turay has flashed but ended his second NFL season on IR. The ultra-explosive Ben Banogu is still a developmental type due to his lacking pass-rushing moves. 

Frank Reich’s club does have a collection of young corners on the roster in Rock Ya-Sin, Quincy Wilson, and Marvell Tell, but none of those players appear to be bound for stardom at this juncture, so that vital spot on the field needs to be addressed. 

Right now, Indianapolis can make a claim as the team with the best offensive line in football. But top labels are fleeting in the NFL. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo flirted with retirement this offseason, and center Ryan Kelly is set for free agency in 2021. Indianapolis needs to plan for the future at those key positions up front next to Quenton Nelson at left guard. 

Chicago Bears

Draft objectives: Don’t be afraid to go WR early, continue to build the OL, find a long-term No. 2 CB 
Draft capital: Seven picks – Round 2, 2, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7
First pick: Round 2, No. 50 overall

The Bears are in a tough spot, mostly due to their quarterback situation. And while that remains a team weakness, we must remember that two years ago, the Bears defense and run game carried the team to the NFC North crown. 

But Chicago can’t simply hope that happens again. In 2018, the Bears forced a league-leading 36 turnovers. That’s probably not happening again for a while. There’s nothing wrong with leaning on a strong defense, though. The offense can’t be ignored despite that team philosophy, and Allen Robinson needs help at receiver, even if Anthony Miller takes a step forward. Don’t sleep on third-year pro Javon Wims; I wouldn’t be shocked if he ultimately passed Riley Ridley on the depth chart. Insulating Mitchell Trubisky or Nick Foles is a must. 

The offensive line is quietly solid, but the tackles are adequate at best, and the right guard job is up for grabs. Receiver and interior offensive line should be prioritized with those second-round selections. 

Kyle Fuller is one of the more underrated corners in the game. Chicago’s depth behind him is severely lacking. Ask Steelers fans if the Bears should feel comfortable with Artie Burns as the club’s No. 2 corner. 

Houston Texans

Draft objectives: Be aggressive at the WR spot, look for a pocket-pushing DT, add OL and CB
Draft capital: Eight picks – Round 2, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 7, 7
First pick: Round 2, No. 40 overall

Despite some baffling decisions by Bill O’Brien lately, the Texans, without a first-round pick in 2020 or 2021, do still have three top 100 selections, including multiple seconds. 

With the initial Round 2 selection for the Texans, they should look to replace some of DeAndre Hopkins’ tremendous production. But it’s not just that. Will Fuller is playing on the fifth-year option of his rookie deal, and Kenny Stills is a free agent after the season. Yikes. 

Losing D.J. Reader, the disruptive boulder in the middle of Romeo Crennel’s defensive line, stings, so another athletic space-eater should be part of the Texans’ draft checklist. 

Even after the shocking first-round selection of Tytus Howard last year and an earlier-than-most-expected pick of Max Scharping in the second round, Houston could still use reinforcements up front. Deshaun Watson’s sack rate dipped from a horrific 10.9% in 2018 to 8.2% last season, but that figure was still the sixth-highest rate in the league. 

Bringing back Bradley Roby was smart. He crushed his prove-it deal last season and is a long, athletic outside corner who can drop into the slot and play there effectively. Yet after a concerning rookie campaign from second-round pick Lonnie Johnson, Houston should dip its toes into the cornerback pool in this class, even with the presence of two trade acquisitions Vernon Hargreaves and Gareon Conley. 

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