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NFL Draft

Exploring The Butterfly Effect Of Tristan Wirfs’ Draft Day Slide

  • The Draft Network
  • April 30, 2020
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Newly acquired Tampa Bay offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs has a tough task ahead of him.

After seeing the Buccaneers trade up for him in the 2020 NFL Draft, Wirfs will be expected to secure the front side of newly signed quarterback Tom Brady. The greatest of all time. No big deal.

But Wirfs should take some solace in knowing that, upon his entry into the league, he's already achieved a monumental task: He broke the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. 

How? I'm glad you asked.

Wirfs was widely considered to be in contention for the No. 4 pick by the Giants. Selecting Wirfs in that spot may not have necessarily changed any dynamics of the first round; perhaps he and actual fourth-overall selection Andrew Thomas simply switched spots or the order the tackles come off the board is shuffled. But once we hit the eighth-overall pick, the madness begins.

In reality, the Cardinals elected to draft linebacker Isaiah Simmons out of Clemson; the latest athletic hybrid drafted by Arizona in recent years. This pick served as a hit on some mock drafts, but it was generally still a surprise. Many expected to see the Cardinals attack the trenches with either the best available offensive tackle or defensive tackle Derrick Brown, who came off the board one pick earlier to the Panthers.

The slide of three of the four top offensive tackles to the Browns with the 10th-overall selection was a stunner and the subsequent bottleneck of tackles, along with the draft's top-three wide receivers still bogging down the board, created a messy stretch of picks that ultimately turned out as follows:

The 49ers traded out of the 13th-overall pick and eagerly accepted an offer from the Buccaneers to ensure they wouldn't fall too far down the draft order and lose out on their own target: South Carolina defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw, who they selected 14th overall.

But the domino effect of Wirfs' slide extends well beyond the top-14 picks. The Eagles were rumored to trade up to secure receiver CeeDee Lamb and willing to offer up 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard to get the deal done. Lamb ultimately went 17th overall to the Cowboys and if the Eagles were interested, their door was slammed shut the moment the 49ers accepted the deal with Tampa Bay. Atlanta was hotly tied to cornerback C.J. Henderson, who ultimately went ninth overall to Jacksonville. But would the Jaguars have drafted Henderson over Simmons if he were there with the No. 9 pick?

In An Alternate Reality...

Let's pretend the Cardinals drafted Wirfs with the eighth pick. The potential swing that comes from him leaving the board at that juncture is fascinating to play out.

No. 8: Tristan Wirfs, OT (Cardinals)

Arizona secures an athletic right tackle to pair with D.J. Humphries and provide upgraded protection for quarterback Kyler Murray.

No. 9: Isaiah Simmons, LB (Jaguars)

Simmons is a best-player-available scenario for a defense that, while certainly in need of upgraded secondary options, could have found his explosive skill set to be very useful when looking for the long-term replacement for linebacker Telvin Smith.

No. 10: Jedrick Wills, OT (Browns)

No. 11: Mekhi Becton, OT (Jets)

No. 12: Henry Ruggs III, WR (Raiders)

There is no need to amend these picks; the availability of Henderson is unlikely to phase any of these three decisions. The teams who are impacted so far are the Falcons and Buccaneers.

Atlanta was rumored to be willing to get into the middle of the top 10 via trade, presumably for a cornerback: Jeff Okudah or Henderson. And with the 49ers being the first seller of a pick after Henderson's slide past the Jaguars, the Falcons could easily be willing to trade up and secure him at No. 13. That's made even easier by Tampa Bay's lack of incentive to trade up due to the absence of a top-four tackle.

No. 13: C.J. Henderson, CB (Falcons via trade)

With the top four tackles gone in this scenario, Tampa's options to upgrade the line for Brady aren't enviable. If the Buccaneers resided on upgrading offensive tackle, they could certainly draft Austin Jackson (who went No. 18 to Miami) or, just maybe, trade back to No. 21 with the Eagles and secure Dillard. This allows Philadelphia the opportunity it needed to get into the top 15 for a splash at receiver and allows Tampa Bay to regroup with an upgrade at tackle in tow.

No. 14: CeeDee Lamb, WR (Eagles via trade)

From here, the domino effect is exponentially harder to trade. Who to the Cowboys select at No. 17? In this scenario, LSU EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson. Does Jacksonville tab cornerback Damon Arnette at No. 20 like the Raiders did in reality at No. 19? Who do the Buccaneers then take at pick No. 21? All of this because the Cardinals opted to pass on Wirfs at No. 8.

So, no worries, Tristan. After throwing a massive curveball at the 2020 draft, blocking for Tom Brady should be a walk in the park. 

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