2020 NFL Draft: Comparing the Raiders and 49ers’ first-round hauls

2020 NFL Draft, Raiders, 49ers (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
2020 NFL Draft, Raiders, 49ers (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

The Las Vegas Raiders and San Francisco 49ers each chose twice in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. How did their picks stack up against expectations?

If you think about it, the Las Vegas Raiders and San Francisco 49ers had pretty similar first rounds in the 2020 NFL Draft.

For starters, both teams possessed two first-round picks. Both teams chose a wide receiver and a defensive player, albeit in reverse order of each other. Both teams surprised their fan bases to a certain extent with their respective selections.

Yet interestingly, both picks were very emblematic of their coaching staffs and front offices.

The Raiders, led by Jon Gruden on the field and Mike Mayock in the front office, have essentially abandoned conventional NFL wisdom in favor of blazing their own path, selecting players they believe have the makeup adequate to their specific style of play.

The 49ers, led by Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, have gone about team building in the more traditional way, establishing a top-flight defense and an offense built around the run in support of franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

They continued along that trajectory Thursday night.

So let’s compare hauls: How did the Raiders and 49ers fare? Which team drafted better?

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Raiders: WR Henry Ruggs (12th overall), CB Damon Arnette (19th Overall)

Plain and simple, the Raiders managed to address two pressing needs with the selections of Henry Ruggs and Damon Arnette. However, whether they got the best players with those two picks is a discussion to be had.

Let’s establish the knowns.

In Ruggs, the Raiders are getting a bona fide burner at the wide receiver position. The former Alabama star recorded a 4.27 at the NFL Combine’s 40-yard dash back in February.

He’s relatively versatile, having returned kicks at Alabama. It’s likely the Raiders could use him in that capacity given the team’s relative lack of speed.

Ruggs is a solid player and a phenomenal athlete. Late Raiders owner Al Davis would be proud of this pick, knowing his affinity for speed. But was he truly the best receiver the team could have taken at pick 12?

Many analysts argued former Alabama teammate Jerry Jeudy, who the Raiders will now have to face twice a year with the division rival Denver Broncos, was the more polished product and route runner.

Others believed CeeDee Lamb, now of the Dallas Cowboys, was the best pass catcher in the 2020 NFL Draft, even drawing pro comparisons to DeAndre Hopkins because of his style of play and his penchant for top-notch yards after catch (YAC) production.

It’s certainly possible Ruggs will live up to the hype, he has the talent to do so.

Be aware that it’s also possible the Raiders felt pressure to match up with the speedy offense of the division rival Kansas City Chiefs, who have their own burner in Tyreek Hill and just added another dynamic play-maker in former LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.

As for cornerback Damon Arnette out of Ohio State? This truly felt like a Gruden/Mayock pick. Reports suggested the team was concerned Arnette would not be available in the third round, where the Raiders were slated to pick next, so they stuck with their gut and took him where they knew they could at pick 19.

Arnette played alongside fellow defensive back draftee Jeff Okudah in the Ohio State secondary last season.

Ohio State has produced an astounding number of quality NFL defensive backs since their championship season in 2014, and while Okudah is expected to be among that group, we can’t necessarily say the same about Arnette.

Many teams and analysts had second or third-round grades on the Ohio State product, some didn’t even have him on their board at all due to maturity issues.

Yet this is exactly the type of player the Raiders would target. They reached for a defensive player in last year’s draft, Clelin Ferrell, and it wasn’t wildly successful. I’m convinced Arnette might be more of the same.

Did the Raiders need a cornerback? No question, Trayvon Mullen needs a running mate in the Las Vegas secondary.

Did they pick the right guy? It remains to be seen, given that other talents (and arguably more sure things) like Jaylon Johnson, Kristian Fulton, and Jeff Gladney were all still available at 19.

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49ers assembled a golden roster via NFL Draft despite misses
49ers assembled a golden roster via NFL Draft despite misses /

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  • 49ers: DT Javon Kinlaw (14th overall), WR Brandon Aiyuk (25th overall)

    Unlike the Raiders, the 49ers appeared to stick much more to script with their selections. In Javon Kinlaw, the 49ers will boast another impressive defensive line in 2020, picking up right where they let off despite the trade of DeForest Buckner to the Indianapolis Colts.

    In Brandon Aiyuk, who some had rated as one of the best wide receivers in the class, the team found its replacement for departed veteran Emmanuel Sanders and added another weapon to Kyle Shanahan’s dangerous offense.

    While wide receiver was a position of need for the 49ers, did the rich get richer by drafting to a position of strength with the selection of Kinlaw?

    The big defensive tackle out of South Carolina posted 10 sacks and 17 tackles for loss in three seasons during his collegiate career, with many projecting him to go in the top-15 of the draft as a result of his production and sheer talent.

    There’s no question the 49ers got an absolute stud at 14 after trading down one pick with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, Buckner was plenty productive during his 49ers tenure, amassing 28.5 sacks over his four seasons with the team.

    Why go with Kinlaw, who despite his talent, is still a prospect and has yet to take a professional snap when the team already had an established option at the position?

    Eventually, the team will need to make decisions on paying their young defensive personnel. Specifically, Nick Bosa and Arik Armstead will cash in along the defensive line, while Dee Ford already has.

    Perhaps Javon Kinlaw on a rookie deal will provide San Francisco more flexibility in being able to maintain the defensive line while maintaining the high-octane production of the unit.

    In the case of wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk, the 49ers nailed this selection. Moving up from pick 31 to 25, he was drafted in the perfect range for his talent level, an ascending talent who many believe will turn into a solid NFL player.

    His senior season at Arizona State was his best, amassing over 1,000 yards receiving and eight touchdowns, indicating positive momentum heading into his pro career.

    Additionally, he was one of the top returners in college football last season, returning both kickoffs and punts for Arizona State, adding versatility to his already well-rounded ledger and giving the 49ers another option in those spots.

    Like the Raiders, San Francisco doesn’t have a true number one wide receiver like a Michael Thomas or Julio Jones, but the depth they’ve stockpiled at the position is impressive and just got better with the addition of Brandon Aiyuk.

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    The Verdict

    So which football squad ended up with the better first round haul in the 2020 NFL Draft? It ultimately depends on what you qualify as better.

    The Raiders addressed two major needs with their first-round selections, but there are certainly questions as to whether they got the best bang for their buck with Henry Ruggs or Damon Arnette.

    There is a case to be made that both were selected too early, but there is also something to be said for identifying specific players that fit a system and style of play.

    The 49ers successfully addressed their need for a wide receiver in nabbing Brandon Aiyuk. However, it can be argued that their selection of Javon Kinlaw with the 14th pick was more of a luxury rather than filling a hole.

    I question why the team traded a known entity and proven producer in DeForest Buckner just to replace him with the pick they received in the trade for him.

    Nevertheless, Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch have earned the benefit of the doubt by compiling a near-flawless roster and making a run at Super Bowl LIV last season.

    Next. 49ers pull off stunning trade landing superstar OT Trent Williams. dark

    One team went with need, the other one went with strengthening a strength. Time will tell which strategy will bring about the greatest payoff.