2019 NFL Draft: Analyzing first-round picks + Interesting Day 2 & 3 notes

Now that the draft has come and gone, the lull point of the NFL’s offseason has officially arrived. But before the abyss ascends, here is a quick take on every first-round pick from over the weekend, with a few additional notes on picks in the second round or later.

1. Kyler Murray – QB, Oklahoma – Arizona Cardinals

What started as a plausible rumor, eventually turned in to an accepted reality, as seen in many analysts’ mock drafts. The Cardinals gave up on Josh Rosen after just one season, as Kliff Kingsbury gets his wish in Arizona’s selection of Kyler Murray. Murray will start right away, and although he certainly won’t reach this level in Year 1 like this upcoming comparable player mention, he has the tools to be a smaller version of Patrick Mahomes.

2. Nick Bosa – EDGE, Ohio State – San Francisco 49ers

After trading with Kansas City for Dee Ford, the 49ers now have a lethal 1-2 combo on the edge, as Bosa is the player with the most upside in this draft. In addition to Bosa and Ford, the 49ers have one of the NFL’s most underrated players in defensive tackle DeForest Buckner. If Kyle Shanahan and Jimmy Garoppolo can get something out of their young offense, the defense should compliment them nicely in improving into a an above-average unit on their own. The 49ers are a team on the verge of the playoffs.

3. Quinnen Williams – DT, Alabama – New York Jets

Instead of trading back, the Jets select the draft’s surest thing. Williams is the best player of this draft for the time being, and should anchor a defense that will need to toughen up against the run, judging by the forever-AFC East champion Patriots’ newfound approach to a power-running style.

4. Clelin Ferrell – EDGE, Clemson – Oakland Raiders

This pick surprised many, since Ferrell was suspected to go somewhere in the No. 10-25 pick range, but Ferrell has the potential to be a force on the edge. His sheer athleticism from the 4-3 defensive end spot should translate to the pros on some level, just not as high as his No. 4 draft pick status suggests. Regardless, Jon Gruden — and new Raiders GM Mike Mayock — are addressing one of Oakland’s biggest needs, which was made apparent after Gruden jettisoned All-Pro Khalil Mack to the Bears last offseason.

5. Devin White – LB, LSU – Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Like the Jets, there was trade chatter revolved around Tampa Bay moving down from this spot. Instead, the Bucs stayed put, drafting one of the best players available to help rebuild their defense. With an aging Gerald McCoy and Jason Pierre-Paul along the defensive line, Tampa Bay was in need of front seven help in general. This should help.

6. Daniel Jones – QB, Duke – New York Giants

Even with immediate needs at wide receiver, offensive line and everywhere along the edge of the Giants’ 3-4 scheme, Big Blue opts to take their quarterback of the future in Duke product Daniel Jones. Both Eli and Peyton Manning spent many offseasons training with Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, so this felt like a fitting passing of the torch for the G-men, even if Jones doesn’t pan out. There’s no way Jones is worth this high of a selection, but Giants GM Dave Gettleman insists that there were two teams that would have snagged Jones before the Giants’ next selection (pick No. 17), had they not taken him here. Time will tell if this pick is a disaster, or a pleasant surprise for the G-Men. Many analysts are panning the pick as of now, which is sadly reasonable, for now.

7. Josh Allen – EDGE, Kentucky – Jacksonville Jaguars

This pick felt like Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor — who they later snagged in the second round — or Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson for Jacksonville, a franchise with a renewed sense of hope after acquiring Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles to lead their offense.

Instead, the Jaguars bolstered their defense with edge defender Josh Allen. Allen is best suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker, but will be affective as a defensive end with his hand in the dirt on the Jaguars’ four-man fronts. With Calais Campbell turning 33 at the start of next season, and budding All-Pro Yannick Ngakoue entering a contract year, Allen was mostly likely selected with Jacksonville’s future needs in mind. For now, Allen assists a defense that should return to being the league’s top unit in 2019, on a franchise that should ascent back into the postseason.

8. T.J. Hockenson – TE, Iowa – – Detroit Lions

After the Lions secured former Patriots defensive lineman Trey Flowers with a mega deal, the team looked to improve their offense. Matt Patricia and Lions GM Bob Quinn (a former Patriots personnel employee) channeled their inner-Bill Belichick by selecting the closest we’ve come to a Rob Gronkowski prospect. The ‘Belicheckian’ tie comes from Hockenson’s school, rather than the player himself, as Belichick and longtime Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz are good friends, and co-workers, as Ferentz worked under Belichick in Cleveland. Iowa is basically ‘Tight End University’ (or ‘Tight End U’) after their recent run with tight ends that began with former Colt Dallas Clark, and has now transitioned to 49ers tight end George Kittle, and this year’s two-first round pick class of Hockenson and Noah Fant, who will be discussed soon.

9. Ed Oliver – DT, Houston – Buffalo Bills

A classic ‘best-player-available’ selection by the Bills here. Oliver is a top-10 worthy pick with tremendous upside. Like Hockenson with Gronk, Oliver is a near-Aaron Donald prospect, who also may have been selected with the aforementioned Patriots’ rushing scheme in mind, a la the Jets (and Dolphins first-round selection) earlier pick.

10. Devin Bush – LB, Michigan – Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers are seemingly capable of turning any wide receiver drafted by them into a star, but instead, they move up 10 picks to select linebacker Devin Bush, in an attempt to fix a defense that has gotten softer over the past few seasons. Since the retirement of Troy Polamalu after the 2014 season, the team has struggled to retain their staunch defensive image in general, with the Ryan Shazier situation leaving the team more barren on that side of the ball. This pick can go either way, but make no mistake, it’s one of the most important draft picks in recent Pittsburgh history.

11. Jonah Williams – OT/G, Alabama  –  Cincinnati Bengals

Many thought the Bengals may go with Drew Lock or Dwayne Haskins here, but Cincinnati instead goes with one of the top-rated offensive lineman. Despite the coaching turnover, Cincinnati seems somewhat invested in Andy Dalton and A.J. Green as the top options on offense going forward.

12. Rashan Gary – EDGE, Michigan  – Green Bay Packers

With Hockenson gone, the Packers could have selected Fant a bit early, but they later settle for Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger in the second round, to compliment an aging Jimmy Graham at tight end. This is another best-player-available pick, as Gary should team with Mike Daniels to give Green Bay some oomph in the trenches. They were in need of that. This is a solid pick.

13. Christian Wilkins – DT, Clemson  – Miami Dolphins

Like Cincinnati, the Dolphins could have went with Lock or Haskins, but instead opted for Josh Rosen. The Wilkins pick suggests the  Dolphins’ new Patriots leadership (head coach Brian Flores) has already made it’s mark. Not only was Wilkins a force in the interior of Clemson’s defensive line, he was also a class act at Clemson, who was a team captain. This was a solid pick by Miami, who should help their rebuilding phase in both talent-bolstering, and locker room morale.

14. Chris Lindstrom – G, Boston College  – Atlanta Falcons

This is an easy pick to pass over, but the Falcons should get immediate results from Lindstrom along the interior of the offensive line. Atlanta is one of the league’s very best teams, in terms of talent spread across the roster. They could have went defense here, but this is a smart pick.

15. Dwayne Haskins – QB, Ohio State  – Washington 

With Alex Smith’s career in jeopardy, and Case Keenum’s bridge starter badge cemented, Washington goes with Haskins as the quarterback of their future. They alter snagged Ohio State speedy receiver Terry McLaurin to make Haskins happy. Washington is in dire need of a franchise cleansing at the moment, and it would be an overly optimistic take to suggest Haskins can pull them out of football purgatory, because it seems like that’s where they may be headed. But then again, Washington has quietly built one of the league’s best defensive fronts, which is an area they add to later…

16. Brian Burns – EDGE, Florida State – Carolina Panthers 

It seemed like it was either the Panthers or Titans for Burns, who said he enjoyed both visits, and seemed to take a liken to those when discussing on and off air during a taping at my full time job, which is as an Associate Producer and Writer on Fair Game with Kristine Leahy. Yes, this is a shameless plug, as I love my job and this show. Check it out!

As for Burns, the Panthers have quickly become suspect on defense, which is a unit that was top tier from 2013 to 2015. Burns is a solid edge addition, but the Panthers are in need of more help on this side of the ball.

17. Dexter Lawrence – DT, Clemson – New York Giants

If there weren’t two teams interested in Daniel Jones, the Giants mismanaged what could have been a key three-down addition on the defensive line with someone like Josh Allen or Ed Oliver. Instead, they play it safe by snagging their quarterback, and then what should be a phenomenal two-down player in the massive Dexter Lawrence (6-foot-5, 340 pounds) here. If Lawrence proves to be athletic enough to push the pile, in terms of pass rush, the Giants could be getting one of the draft’s very best players here, but time will tell.

18. Garrett Bradbury – C/G, N.C. State  – Minnesota Vikings 

Most mocked Bradbury to the Vikings here, and that’s exactly where they went. Minnesota needs help along the offensive line, and the N.C. State product will do just that. This is a great pick. Kirk Cousins and the Vikings just need to execute in 2019.

19. Jeffrey Simmons – DT, Mississippi State   – Tennessee Titans

In Simmons, the Titans get the second or third best player in the draft from an initial standpoint. Simmons is up there with Nick Bosa and Quinnen Williams, in terms of potential and being a sure thing, when on the field. Because Simmons tore his ACL in February, while training for the draft, there’s a good chance he misses the entirety of the 2019 season, which is why he’s slid this far. And his potential is also why he’s drafted this high, considering those circumstances.

20. Noah Fant – TE, Iowa  – Denver Broncos

In an attempt to give Joe Flacco a young offensive weapon, the Broncos grab the most explosive tight end — in terms of pass catching — on the board. There’s Courtland Sutton at the ‘X’ receiver position, 32-year-old Emmanuel Sanders at the ‘Z’ receiver, and not much else in terms of Denver pass catchers. It’s on Flacco to make this work, as he likely won’t be benched for the Broncos’ second-round pick, Drew Lock, any time soon.

21. Darnell Savage – S, Maryland – Green Bay Packers

The Packers continue to bolster their defense by going with Darnell Savage at Pick No. 21, after trading up with the Seahawks. Savage serves best as a nickel back, or nickel safety role, which is an important position in today’s game. Strong safety Jonathan Abram would have also been a good pick at safety, but Savage should be a sound addition to a Packers defense that is already set at the outside cornerback position with two 2018 draft picks, Jaire Alexander and Jos Jackson.

22. Andre Dillard – OT, Washington State – Philadelphia Eagles

With Jason Peters now at age 37, the talented Eagles take one of the draft’s highest-rated offensive lineman, in an attempt to eventually replace Peters, opposite Lane Johnson on the Eagles’ offensive line. Philadelphia is getting a bit older at defensive line, and Montez Sweat may have been a fit here. Additionally, the Eagles are in slight need of help at cornerback. But by fielding one of the best rosters of 2019, Philadelphia wisely with with Dillard, as many of the starter-worthy tackles were off the board by the middle of the second round.

23.  Tytus Howard – OT, Alabama State – Houston Texans

The Texans desperately need help at tackle, and along their offensive line in general. With Jonah Williams and Andre Dillard off the board, the Texans pass on Jawaan Taylor and Kaleb McGary to select a tackle that many believed would go in later rounds.

24.  Josh Jacobs – RB, Alabama – Oakland Raiders

As Marshawn Lynch retires, the Raiders pick up their new starting running back in Jacobs, who is clearly the best traditional, full-time starter at the position in this draft. With Derek Carr entering a make-or-break year, the more weapons the merrier, as Jacobs will compliment Oakland’s two additional offseason offensive additions in wide receivers Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams.

25.  Marquise ‘Hollywood’ Brown – WR, Oklahoma – Baltimore Ravens

One of my favorer players of the draft, Antonio Brown’s cousin is one of the most explosive receivers in recent memory to come though the draft. Hollywood Brown will certainly make a name for himself, or create his own lane, without the mention of his cousin, pretty soon. Teams like the Chiefs, Saints or Patriots is where Brown would have likely flourished the most. Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson clearly has room for improvement in terms of passing accuracy. But for now, Brown can specialize in wide receiver screens, slants, drags and the basic fly route, before Baltimore expands it’s passing options by the way of Jackson’s inevitable improvement as a pro passer.

26.  Montez Sweat – EDGE, Mississippi State – Washington 

After going with Haskins, Washington trades back into the first round to take, without a doubt, the best player available at this point of the draft. This is in terms of talent and potential only, of course. Sweat will have to prove himself. But that should be easy along the league’s most underrated defensive line. Sweat will start alongside Daron Payne and Jonathan Allen along the interior, and Ryan Kerrigan on the opposite edge, in Washington’s four-man front in their base nickel defense in 2019.

27.  Jonathan Abram – S, Mississippi State – Oakland Raiders

Abram is an energetic hunter in the box, best used as a strong safety, which is where he should start immediately for the Raiders. Even with Karl Joseph and Lamarcus Joyner already on the roster, Abram may become the team’s best safety a month into the 2019 season.

28. Jerry Tillery – DT, Notre Dame  – Los Angeles Chargers 

Like Trey Flowers, Tillery can projects to play both on the edge and in the interior. But with the Chargers already bolstering a combination of Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram on the edge, Tillery will likely start alongside Brandon Mebane at defensive tackle, giving them an upgrade in talent at one of the few positions of need on a very talented team.

29.  L.J. Collier – EDGE, TCU – Seattle Seahawks

Long gone are the days of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Bruce Irvin and others along the defensive line. Heck, even Frank Clark was just shipped to Kansas City. The Seahawks are barren up front, and on defense in general, outside of the game’s best linebacker, Bobby Wagner. With most of the immediate-impact edge rushers gone at the No. 21 selection, Seattle traded out and decided to draft L.J. Collier with the pick that was obtained by trading Clark. It would be a surprise if Collier transformed the defensive line, but he’s better than what they have. They need additional help. The Seahawks may suffice with 9 or 10 wins a season just because of the trio of Pete Carroll, Russell Wilson and Wagner, but they’re in need of additional retooling to get back to where they were. Maybe at the start of the next decade they’ll become an NFC stalwart, once more. They’re close…or close-ish.

30.  Deandre Baker – CB, Georgia  – New York Giants

Giants GM Dave Gettleman opted to trade with the Saints to move back in for a third first-round selection. Many had Baker, Washington’s Byron Murphy and LSU’s Greedy Williams as the top three cornerbacks of this draft. Baker (5-foot-11, 193 pounds) doesn’t have the size of a Greedy Williams, but should be effective as a starting No. 2 cornerback in the NFL, at least, opposite Janoris Jenkins. Time will tell if some of the other cornerbacks would be a better fit here. That may turn out to be the case.

31.  Kaleb McGary – OT, Washington – Atlanta Falcons

Atlanta double dips in offensive line selections in the first round by selecting McGary, who should beat out Ty Sambrailo at right tackle, to start opposite Jake Matthews. There are virtually no holes among Atlanta’s offense, with maybe the exception of a No. 2 running back role, after Tevin Coleman’s defection to the improving 49ers.

32. N’Keal Harry – WR, Arizona State – New England Patriots 

In Harry, the Patriots not only have a plausible outside receiver to compliment — and fill in for, initially — Josh Gordon, they may have their version of the Saints’ Michael Thomas, if Harry reaches his peak. That’s a bold statement, as Thomas is already one of the NFL’s top five receivers. But Harry often lined up inside as a ‘Big Slot’ option at Arizona State, which is where the thriving Thomas has been utilized in Sean Payton’s scheme.

Additional Notes

– Josh Rosen to Miami — By passing on the likes of Dwayne Haskins and Drew Lock, the Dolphins made a wise decision in trading a second-round draft choice for Josh Rosen, instead of settling for a selection in the underwhelming quarterback class of this draft. Additionally, with their bevy of picks in next year’s draft, Miami can package picks to trade into a spot for a quarterback such as Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, if they don’t deem Rosen worthy enough to be their current franchise quarterback. But that decision should come with caution, as the Dolphins are clearly in a rebuilding mode, even with the tenacity of the team’s new head coach, Brian Flores, to win immediately. That won’t happen. There are a lot of holes on Miami’s roster. This is likely a two-to-three year rebuild, and a likely lackluster 2019 season may make it tricky to decide wether or not Miami should stick with Rosen going forward. That is why any surprising success — like a 7-9 season — should come as an indictment of Rosen’s competence as an NFL quarterback. And yes, Rosen should start immediately, over Ryan Fitzpatrick. This is a sound choice by Miami.

Interesting QB selections  Amid some of the more obvious quarterback-needy teams that addressed the position, there were a few surprise selections in the middle rounds, as the Panthers selected West Virginia’s Will Grier in Round 3 (No. 100 pick) and the Eagles took Northwestern’s Clayton Thorson in Round 5 (167) after his slight dip in the draft. Certainly the Eagles’ pick is not that crazy, seeing as the franchise just lost Foles to Jacksonville. But the team seemed to be high on Zach Sudfeld, and maybe they still are, but the Thorson selection may not only mean competition for the No. 2 spot in Philadelphia, it may also mean the Eagles aren’t exactly optimistic about Carson Wentz’s ability to stay healthy. Ditto to Cam Newton’s health in Carolina, as the team’s Day 2 pick on Grier surprised many, seeing as Carolina has the 2015 NFL MVP on their roster. And unlike Thorson, who is probably a top tier backup QB at best, Grier has the potential to be a starter, which makes this pick even more interesting. Both selections are likely due to the up-and-down recent health of Newton and Wentz, and with that in mind, both may have the chance to play in 2019, to the chagrin of the teams that drafted them.

Patriots’ sound niche defensive selections — Despite a glaring need at tight end, the Patriots decided to bypass options such as Irv Smith Jr. and Jace Sternberger to select ‘niche’ defensive pieces that should tailor to specific schemes. Those players, Joejuan Williams and Chase Winovich were selected in the second and third round respectively, with definitive roles in mind. Both players should become full-time starters by their second year, if not immediately. So that’s not to say they’re only situational-type players. But it’s obvious how the Patriots intend to use both. Winovich is the easier role to explain. He will likely take on an edge role as a defensive end/outisde linebacker hybrid, much in the way Mike Vrabel and Rob Ninkovich were used. Winovich has the potential to be a much better pass rusher than those two Patriots legends. His high motor and youth will be utilized immediately along a defensive line that lacks a consistent pass rusher outside of the newly-acquired, 33-year-old Michael Bennett. Winovich may start at defensive end off the bat.

Williams may start opposite Stephen Gilmore as the team’s No. 2 cornerback immediately, but may not definitively until Year 2, as second-year, undrafted cornerback J.C. Jackson has a solid year ahead of him as a competent, striating cornerback. But Williams should see the field immediately as someone who guards big receivers and tight ends in man coverage, sometimes with help. Williams (6-foot-4, 211 pounds) is an unique matchup player that is basically a much more athletic Brandon Browner (6-foot-4, 221 pounds). Williams has incredible size and surprising quickness to cover some of the NFL’s most unique offensive weapons like Travis Kelce and Alshon Jeffrey, both of whom are on teams on the Patriots’ 2019 schedule. Bill Belichick tipped off this pick with a quote he gave to the media during his pre-draft press conference:

In Williams, Belichick has a unique player that he’ll unleash on the NFL.

Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardmon and the Chiefs’ offense — With recent news of the horrible situation surrounding Chiefs All-Pro athlete Tyreek Hill, Kansas City may — and should be — without Hill. If they’re not, Mecole Hardmon is a fascinating, speedy slot option to compliment Hill and ‘X’ receiver Sammy Watkins, but Hardmon was likely selected in the event that Hill will be out of football soon. Many thought Hardmon was a third or fourth-round slot receiver selection. But with his speed and quickness, Hardmon may be able to serve as a poor man’s Tyreek Hill in Kansas City’s offense. No one is Hill, he’s a dynamic weapon that is virtually uncoverable. But at Georgia, Hardmon was an explosive weapon that complimented Riley Ridley as both a slot and deep-threat option. With the transcendent Patrick Mahomes, a generational talent, at quarterback, Hardmon may turn into the Chiefs’ No. 2 pass catcher behind tight end Travis Kelce. The Chiefs’ section of Hardmon a round or two before may projected makes that indication more clear. They intend for Hardmon to become an integral part of their offensive, immediately.

Kelvin Harmon’s fall to Round 6 is preposterous — There’s no reason why N.C. State stud wide receiver Kelvin Harmon should have dropped to Washington in the sixth round. There has been nothing off-the-field that has been reported on him, that warrants that type of slip. Sure, Harmon went from a possible first-round selection to a likely third-round prospect after the combine, but this type of fall is just perplexing. In Washington, Harmon should work his way up the depth chart to be the team’s No. 4 receiver, as a back-up ‘X’ type role behind Josh Doctson on the outside.

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