It’s draft day, as the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft will begin tonight at 8:00 PM ET on NFL Network, ESPN, and ABC. This draft preview lays out what you should know for tonight.
The belief is that there are two consensus best players in this year’s draft: Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, and Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams. But Heisman-winning quarterback Kyler Murray is getting plenty of interest around the league—and it starts at No. 1, with the Arizona Cardinals and new head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who said he’d take Murray with the No. 1 pick if he had the chance. If Murray is selected first, the draft can just carry on as expected; but if Arizona passes on Murray, things could get crazy.
I think there are seven elite players that could be top-five picks in most drafts, and there are about 15 or 16 I think could typically be top-ten picks. Aside from them, there are other players that people believe should be top-five or top-ten picks, including Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver, Michigan linebacker Devin Bush, and Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson (and I also think fellow Iowa tight end Noah Fant could get top-ten consideration). My top 16 players are located at the bottom of this article.
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The Oakland Raiders
Unlike the overly-negative media, I am very optimistic about the outlook of the Raiders under head coach Jon Gruden and new general manager Mike Mayock, and they were by far my most interesting team entering the offseason. Personally, I probably wouldn’t have acquired Antonio Brown from the Steelers; but the cost was very low considering Brown’s talent, and Gruden seems like the perfect coach to ensure his star receiver doesn’t ruin the locker room. The trade for AB was just the start of 2019 additions that also included left tackle Trent Brown, safety/nickel Lamarcus Joyner, wide receiver Tyrell Williams, and linebacker Vontaze Burfict.
Now, the Raiders hold three first-round draft picks (No. 4, No. 24, and No. 27) and four of the top 35 picks overall. They can basically do whatever they want, whether that includes standing pat and picking the best player on the board each of those picks, navigating the draft board to acquire more picks, trading up for a player, or acquiring a veteran player. The option of acquiring a veteran player (like the apparently-disgruntled Patrick Peterson, perhaps for one of the late first-round picks) is something I would really keep an eye out for tonight.
Many of the geniuses in the media insist the Raiders are a dumpster fire, but I think they are in a better position than most NFL franchises. It’s going to take some work to build up the Raiders again, but Gruden and Mayock have job security and will be given time to build things the way they want, which is something I’ve wanted to see an NFL owner allow. There are some moves they’ve already made that I don’t completely agree with, like the aforementioned Brown trade, the signing of Isaiah Crowell at running back, and the signing of Brandon Marshall at linebacker; but that’s OK, I don’t need to agree with everything they do to believe they are headed in the right direction. It’s not wise to count out a couple of true football guys that are going to work as hard as anyone and are lined up philosophically and personality-wise.
Also, I believe the Raiders are badly playing the media right now (if other NFL teams are believing what’s being reported). The team just sent home their scouts last week to ensure there are no leaks, and now things are suddenly leaking about them being interested in Dwayne Haskins at No. 4? I think they probably really do like Haskins, but these apparent leaks about interest in quarterbacks were likely planted so they get one of the top two defenders on their board (assuming Kyler Murray goes No. 1 and a team trades up to No. 3 for Haskins). If Murray happens to slip past Arizona and is there for the Raiders, then all bets are off and I could certainly see Gruden and Mayock pulling the trigger on the electric quarterback.
Whatever happens, the Raiders will probably be the talk of the first round. And it’s important they get these picks right.
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I like last year’s quarterback class better than this one (partly because Josh Allen was the second best prospect in the draft besides Saquon Barkley in my opinion), but I still think 2019 has three quarterbacks that can go in the top ten: Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, and Duke’s Daniel Jones.
Murray is a video-game-like quarterback that’s obviously a remarkable athlete having already been selected in the top ten of the MLB Draft last year. You’d like him to be bigger, but Murray’s stature is about the only thing lacking in his game. He has an absolute rocket for an arm, and his baseball background helps him throw with a ton of velocity from either in the pocket or on the run. Murray also has the dynamic ability to be a Russell Wilson type of quarterback that can pull magician-like moves to move around the pocket and get out of trouble. As long as the attitude checks out (it’d help to be able to talk to him), I believe he’s worthy of a top-five pick.
Haskins is a classic drop-back quarterback with a quick release coming off a 50-touchdown season in his lone year as the starter for the Buckeyes. The lack of experience is the concern, but Haskins is apparently a very smart player that spends a lot of time studying and on the white board. Haskins was clutch at the end of games for Ohio State, with 14 touchdowns and one interception (on 10.0 yards per attempt, his highest of any quarter) last season.
Jones is also in a classic mold at six-foot-five, but he has more ability than Haskins to run zone-reads and run-pass options. With experience under Duke head coach David Cutcliffe (who coached both Peyton and Eli Manning in college), Jones is receiving praise from people that know what they’re talking about—and it backs up what Jones shows on film. Duke’s supporting cast didn’t play great for Jones this past season, but the third-year starter showed a lot with his own play, including an excellent deep ball—the talk about him having a weak arm is flat-out wrong. I believe Jones is right there with Murray and Haskins among potential franchise quarterbacks worthy of top-ten picks in this year’s draft.
This quarterback class is also very deep, with options like Drew Lock, Jarrett Stidham, Ryan Finley, Will Grier, and Tyree Jackson just a few among at least a dozen options that should at least develop into solid backup quarterbacks. However, Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley is the guy that’s not getting close to enough respect leading up to the draft.
McSorley’s senior season wasn’t quite as good as his spectacular sophomore and junior seasons for Penn State, but the team—from the offensive line in front of him to the skill position players—simply wasn’t as good in 2018. I thought McSorley might’ve had a chance to get first-round consideration if last season went about the same or better as the previous two, so I still believe he should at least be getting Day 2 consideration after what he showed in college. McSorley is also an “undersized” quarterback, but he’s a great leader that plays the game hard; and any concerns about his arm strength are overblown. When McSorley had future NFLers like Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton at receiver, he showed his deep ball is outstanding. I think Penn State’s all-time winningest quarterback can become a franchise quarterback if he ever gets a shot.
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Bold draft predictions
Bryce Love becomes one of the best players from the draft class
If Bryce Love left school last year, he might’ve been a first-round pick. Staying at Stanford led to a decrease in production, an ACL injury, and ultimately a big drop in his draft stock—most people seem to view him as just a change-of-pace option (at best) and a late-round pick. Durability is a concern, but I think he should certainly be selected on Day 2 of the draft. The former Heisman Trophy finalist is one of the highest-character players in the draft, and he also has a ton of ability on the field, with an all-around skillset that includes top-notch acceleration and blazing speed. If Love can get healthy and stay healthy, a team might get a star at a huge discount.
The Patriots do not draft a quarterback in the first three rounds
I think the guy New England might most realistically be interested in, Daniel Jones, will go in the top 15, and the Patriots are highly unlikely to trade up that high for a quarterback. I could see the Patriots pulling the trigger if Drew Lock lasts to the late-second round, but that probably won’t happen either. Instead, the Patriots might be looking towards an extremely promising 2020 class that includes Jake Fromm, Tua Tagovailoa, and Justin Herbert at the top. Maybe they’ll use draft capital this year to acquire draft capital for next year with an eye toward one of those guys—Fromm would be the perfect quarterback to take over for Tom Brady in a few years, and I could see him going lower than he should (first overall) next year.
Five wide receivers go in the first round
There’s been a lot of talk about Oklahoma’s Marquise “Hollywood” Brown being the only receiver to go in the first round this year, but I’ll say that at least five receivers go in the top 32. I think this is a good class for the position, so my thinking is NFL teams might agree. It’s not likely to happen (it’s a bold prediction), but A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Marquise Brown, Hakeem Butler, and J.J. Arcega-Whiteside would be the five.
Rashan Gary doesn’t go in the first round
There are two big red flags for Michigan defensive lineman Rashan Gary: 1) he had limited production in college, and 2) a shoulder issue, which might require surgery, popped up. For someone that was talked about as a top-five pick early in the process, I think Gary might drop entirely out of the first round before going early on Day 2.
No safeties go in the first round
Safety is one of the deepest positions in this year’s draft, which could lead to none going in the first round. Instead, the second round may lead to a run of seven or eight guys quickly going off the board as teams add to the back end of their defenses. Remember, there were a bunch of safeties also available in free agency during the offseason, so many teams filled their needs there.
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Top Ten Prospects
1. Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky
2. Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
3. Christian Wilkins, DL, Clemson
4. Devin White, LB, LSU
5. Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama
6. Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
7. Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
8. Dexter Lawrence, DL, Clemson
9. Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State
10. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State
A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss
D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson