This puts a lot of egg on GM Steve Keim’s face, as last year’s costly first-round pick, Josh Rosen (whom, it should be noted, would be rated higher than Murray on some teams’ boards) will likely be dealt for pennies on the dollar. And there was already egg on Keim’s face to begin with, as he fired last year’s new head coach, Steve Wilks, after just one season, replacing him with the offensive-minded ex-Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. But give Keim credit for facing that music and moving forward, and for understanding that he would diminish the Kingsbury hire by not drafting Murray, whom Kingsbury believes is a perfect fit for his new-age offense.
Murray’s ceiling is that of a Russell Wilson Plus. Murray is quicker and faster than Wilson, plus Murray has the livelier arm. Also, like Wilson, Murray is a tremendous touch thrower and out-of-pocket player. The question is whether, at 5’10”, Murray can consistently play from within the pocket, which is mandatory for NFL success, no matter how electric a QB might be at scrambling. Like any mobile QB, Murray must fight the urge to flee the pocket too quickly or too often. His legs must be used as a resource, not a crutch.
The Niners forced seven turnovers in 2018, four fewer than the league’s previous all-time low. That’s staggering, given that they primarily run a traditional Seahawks-style zone scheme, where players keep the action in front of them and rally to the ball. With this approach, a lack of turnovers stems especially from your pass rush failing to disrupt the quarterback. The Niners, who rely on a four-man rush and generated no pressure off the edges last year, took a huge step earlier this offseason by trading for Kansas City’s Dee Ford. Adding Bosa could make them the NFL’s fastest-rising defense in 2019. He’ll likely align outside, opposite Ford and with underrated long-armed monster DeForest Buckner between them. But like his brother Joey, Nick Bosa can also rush from inside in obvious passing situations. The Niners now have a lot of weapons and options up front.
Unable to trade this pick, the Jets “settled” for whom many believe is the best player in this draft. Williams played multiple positions in Alabama’s high-level scheme, which will serve him well under new Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who likes to diversify. Williams was a fast-riser in 2018, but he draws rave reviews for his mechanics, particularly his hand usage. He obviously checks the size and quickness boxes, but the question is whether he has enough burst and twitch to be a consistent gap penetrator. Stylistically, Williams is very similar to Jets incumbent defensive lineman Leonard Williams. Leonard—who, it should be noted, is a free agent after this season, though one worth re-signing—may now find himself operating at defensive end once in a while, considering the Jets are still weak at this spot.
The Raiders, desperately needing an edge rusher after last year’s trade of Khalil Mack, had their choice of defensive ends. Somewhat shockingly, they took Clelin Ferrell, who dominated Alabama’s first-round prospect, Jonah Williams, in the national championship, but was deemed by some scouts as a “good at everything, great at nothing” guy. He is expected to be solid as a tightly aligned defensive end in base downs, but today’s NFL is about nickel, which defenses play nearly 70 percent of the time. Can Ferrell bend the edge there? He’d better. Defensive coordinator Paul Guenther plays a lot of 2-deep coverages, especially in zone. That approach only works if your front four generates pressure. The Raiders already addressed defensive tackle last year, taking P.J. Hall (second round) and Maurice Hurst (fifth round). Some believed Ferrell translates more as a nickel defensive tackle. Clearly, the Raiders don’t.
Talk about a team having speed at linebacker. White is a classic undersized run-and-chase guy…just like the newly signed free agent Deone Bucannon, who played for new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles in Arizona. And remember, incumbent Lavonte David, an everydown stud, can also run. The beauty of this pick is it plays off last year’s pick of Vita Vea, a bigger-bodied athlete who can occupy blockers, keeping White, David and Bucannon clean. White flashed both as a designed blitzer and improvised blitzer at LSU. That interior pass-rushing prowess will be critical in Tampa Bay, as Bowles loves to pressure the quarterback up the middle.
Only two first-round quarterbacks since 2005 have sat and learned from the bench their entire rookie year before becoming a franchise QB: Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes. Daniel Jones has much less raw talent than either of those two. But, like the man—or ManNING—Jones will soon replace, he thrives with clean pocket mechanics and traditional execution. Also like Manning, Jones’s game must be predicated on shrewd pre-snap reads, as he didn’t make a lot of late-in-the-progression throws or second-reaction plays at Duke.
This is a great illustration of how the whole 3-4 vs. 4-3 discussion gets overblown. Allen is viewed as a 3-4 outside linebacker, and the Jags have as pure a 4-3 scheme as you’ll find. And that dichotomy does not matter because 3-4 and 4-3 in today’s NFL both have mostly the same gap-shooting rules, and the NFL is a nickel league, which usually means a 4-2 front. Bottom line: Allen is a raw edge bender, which he’ll do opposite lithe, unheralded star Yannick Ngakoue on third downs. (This also means superstar Calais Campbell will play inside on those downs.). Allen’s experience dropping into coverage at Kentucky could also put him in contention for a strongside linebacker role in base 4-3 scenarios, not unlike how the Broncos have used Von Miller over the years.
Head coach Matt Patricia fired offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter in part because Cooter was not overly familiar with the Patriots-style scheme that Patricia wants to run. (We’ll soon find out if new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is.) Obviously, a Patriots-style scheme has plenty of room for a five-tool tight end. Hockenson might not be the next Rob Gronkowski (those would be unfair expectations to place upon any player), but like Gronk, he is both a high-level receiver and blocker. That gives the Lions schematic flexibility and helps a running game that, incredibly, has remained mostly dormant since Barry Sanders’s sudden retirement. The fact that Detroit signed ex-Steeler Jesse James for $10.5M guaranteed in free agency suggests they want to keep two tight ends on the field, which helps simplify the looks they’ll see from opposing defenses.
Most likely, the Bills saw this as a value pick. And after signing Star Lotulelei for big money in free agency last year, to pair with 2018 third-rounder Harrison Phillips and gifted (though mercurial) ex-Dolphin Jordan Phillips, they didn’t have a glaring need at defensive tackle. But outside, they badly need an edge rusher, as 2016 first-rounder Shaq Lawson is not that guy and Jerry Hughes could be in his last year with the club. That said, you can make room for a dynamic gap penetrator. Oliver relies on quickness and elusiveness within confined areas, which is a unique style of play. But considering his having had an up-and-down 2018 season and Buffalo not badly needing a defensive tackle, overall this is a high-risk, high-reward pick for a team looking to add talent in multiple places.
The Steelers almost never trade up, but in this case, trading up for Bush was an easy decision. The team has had a massive hole at linebacker since Ryan Shazier’s tragic injury, which is extra damaging considering their scheme puts a premium on speed in the middle of the field. With Terrell Edmunds joining as a first-round pick last year, the Steelers can be either a nickel or dime defense, giving them flexibility to adjust to opponents week in and week out. They haven’t had such flexibility since Shazier was last on the field.
Many think that Williams can play guard or tackle in the NFL, which is good because the Bengals need help at both spots. Williams predominantly played left tackle at Alabama, but with Cordy Glenn that is one of just two stable positions along Cincy’s front five (the other is center, which is occupied by last year’s first-rounder Billy Price). So expect Williams to first get a crack at guard. Incumbent left guard Clint Boling and right guard John Miller are both fringe starters, if not merely quality backups. Which means its entirely possible Williams could play right tackle, which is currently manned by Bobby Hart, who is susceptible to the bull rush. Wherever Williams plays, this pick asserts the Bengals remain committed to Andy Dalton. Not only did they leave Dwayne Haskins on the board, but they took a blocker, which Dalton, who is inconsistent in messy pockets, relies on more than most QBs.
Everyone agrees: Gary has ton of talent, but he did not produce much at Michigan. Some coaches wouldn’t know what to make of that, but Packers defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will take it. Pettine believes in aggressive, destructive defensive play. Instead of worrying about gaps, assignments and reads, his front seven players—particularly along the D-line—are instructed to kick the snot out of the man in front of them and let the action take care of itself. It’s also worth noting that Green Bay’s other young defensive linemen have developed well in recent years. The Packers presumably trust that young D-line coach Jerry Montgomery can help Gary hone his considerable raw talent.
This is a fascinating selection: Presumably, new Dolphins head coach Brian Flores will run the Patriots-style scheme that he has spent his entire career teaching. Wilkins has the size that the scheme demands, but stylistically, his game is built more on quickness and movement than raw power. Perhaps Flores envisions Wilkins filling the Trey Flowers role. The two have different body types, but Flowers always thrived on the stunts and twists that Wilkins seems tailor-made to execute.
When the Falcons paid meaningful money to guards James Carpenter and Jamon Brown in free agency, analysts like yours truly scratched their heads and wondered if this meant the team was moving to more of a north-south inside zone running game, rather than the east-west outside zone game around which they’ve built their offense. Carpenter and Brown, after all, are downhill maulers with limited lateral agility. Lindstrom, on the other hand, is dripping with athleticism. He’s expected to be an excellent outside zone blocker, which suggests the Falcons will indeed remain an outside zone running team. Carpenter, though not suited for that system, at least survived in it for many years as a Seahawk. Brown also played in it as a Ram and could be moved to right tackle, a position he played effectively during the 2017 offseason in L.A. The Falcons, who entered this draft with few needs and a ready-to-win-now roster, upgraded at a critical position.
The rumors were true: Washington wanted Dwayne Haskins. Just how badly, we might never know, because after the many swirling rumors, the team ultimately did not need to trade up to draft him. There’s no way the Redskins could be confident that Haskins would still be on the board at 15. So they were willing to take him, but not splurge on him. After Alex Smith’s possibly career-ending leg injury last season, Washington needed a quarterback. The question now becomes, How soon will Haskins play? Having such a small sample size from college, he’s expected to be a work-in-progress. Can he be consistently accurate and poised from the pocket?
Pliability and burst are vital for edge rushing, and edge rushing is vital in Carolina’s true 4-3 zone-based scheme. Burns, lanky and explosive, fits the profile. The Panthers are set—for now—at right end, with underappreciated star Mario Addison (though he’ll be 32 and is a free agent in 2020). In the meantime, Burns can split time with the recently acquired Bruce Irvin at the left edge spot that opened up when Julius Peppers retired. Size and playing strengths are a concern with Burns; don’t be surprised if he plays only in obvious passing situations as a rookie.
This one is surprising because the Giants did not NEED a defensive tackle. Last year’s third-round pick, B.J. Hill, is a star in the making, and 2017 second-rounder Dalvin Tomlinson is quietly on a similar plane. Those two can play 3-technique (between the guard and tackle) or 5-technique (over the tackle) on base downs, with Lawrence occupying the middle as a nose. But that package will only be usable about 20 snaps a game. A few top edge rushers were still on the board, as were all of the defensive backs. Giants GM Dave Gettleman believes in stocking up on D-linemen, but defensive coordinator James Bettcher, who runs a pressure-heavy scheme, can only play with so many at once. And that pressure-heavy scheme can’t work if New York doesn’t have corners and safeties who can cover one-on-one.
Mike Zimmer wants to run the ball and last year’s fired offensive coordinator, John DeFilippo, felt they couldn’t because of shoddy guards. Those guards, Mike Remmers and Tom Compton, are gone. But their replacements, Danny Isidora and Josh Kline, are not much better. Bradbury can take over one of their spots or play his college position at center, moving Pat Elflein to guard. However it shakes out, this is case of player and need meeting together perfectly. New offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski wants to employ an outside-zone scheme to fit Kirk Cousins, who is at his best throwing play-action off those outside zone looks. Bradbury is viewed unequivocally as the best outside zone blocking interior lineman in this draft.
The Titans must like the talent and upside because Simmons could miss most of his rookie season rehabbing an ACL injury. Plus, they did not have any immediate need at interior D-line; Jurrell Casey is still a stud, and Austin Johnson and DaQuan Jones are solid. The Titans could have used some reinforcement at tight end and safety, but if they feel those positions can be addressed in the next few rounds, it’s hard to fault a team for investing in talent. And by the time Simmons can play, they might decide that Johnson—a free agent in 2020—is not worth re-signing. Plus, no team has ever been hurt from having too much depth along the defensive line. This is a player who the MMQB’s Albert Breer noted is widely seen as having top five talent, but in addition to his torn ACL, teams are also aware of a video of him striking a woman in high school. (My grade reflects his value on the field relative to his draft slot.)
Fant is a revered receiving talent, but he was not asked to block much at Iowa in a system that puts a premium on tight end blocking. What do we make of that? Denver’s incumbent tight end, Jeff Heuerman, is a serviceable starter at best, and you don’t take a player in the first-round with ideas of making him a backup. Fant is here to contribute, but it’s hard to imagine he CAN without becoming a respectable blocker. Heuerman doesn’t inspire a team to employ more two-tight end sets, and with Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton and presumably last year’s fourth-rounder DaeSean Hamilton, the Broncos can feel good about their three-receiver package. As a receiver, Fant is gifted, but some feel his route running needs to be polished. Given that and the questions about his blocking, we could be looking at a No. 2 tight end for 2019, but one with upside.
In addition to destructive, almost reckless, defensive line play (which the Packers addressed by drafting Rashan Gary), the other defining characteristic of defensive coordinator Mike Pettine’s scheme is versatility at defensive back. Pettine’s approach of putting six DBs on the field, many of whom are liable to play a different position from one week to the next, requires depth and talent in the secondary. Savage, a playmaker at Maryland, adds to that. His arrival could also stabilize some positions for guys, pushing rising 2017 second-rounder Josh Jones to the box as a dime linebacker and Josh Jackson to slot as a stout corner.
The book on Dillard is he’s a raw talent whom offensive line coaches would love to get their hands on. Philadelphia’s Jeff Stoutland won the draw. And Stoutland will have time; aging future Hall of Famer Jason Peters is expected back on the left side for 2019 and Lane Johnson remains a Pro Bowl—if not All-Pro-caliber—specimen on the right side. Dillard, who should be the future left tackle, can learn from the bench as a rookie. The focus will be on his run-blocking, as Dillard’s Washington State Cougars did not employ many NFL-style run concepts, while the Eagles have one of football’s most expansive rushing schemes.
The Eagles leapfrogged the tackle-needy Texans to take developmental blocker Andre Dillard, so Houston took the next most enticing development project in Howard. Scouts believe Howard, who will make the transition from Alabama State to the NFL, will need help with his technique. It’s a little surprising the Texans would invest in a project given that bigger school players like Jawaan Taylor and Cody Ford were still on the board. After all, the Texans are a playoff-caliber club and Deshaun Watson, who took far more hits than an NFL QB should, needs protection NOW. But obviously the Texans looked closely at all the tackles in this year’s draft. Howard, who could play on the right side (across from where most of the league’s best defensive ends reside), was the man they chose.
Jacobs has all the tools required of a star running back in today’s NFL: the lateral agility to create his own space, the contact balance to break tackles and the hands and route-running quickness to create and exploit favorable mismatches in the passing game. Jon Gruden gets a chance to showcase his offensive creativity, as he can build his spread-empty formations and quick-strike passes around the multidimensional running back.
Nothing scares a defense more than speed and quickness, which Brown has in spades. The Ravens might need to scheme ways to get Antonio Brown’s undersized cousin clean access off the line of scrimmage, which would mean putting him in motion and having him come out of the slot. That can be managed (the Colts do it well with T.Y. Hilton). Once you get Brown into the secondary, he’ll attract deep safety help almost every time, simplifying the coverage looks for young Lamar Jackson and creating space for others. The only notable “yeah but” here is that the Ravens passed on the bigger-bodied guys who define this year’s receiving class, and given the inconsistent accuracy Jackson showed last year, plus-sized targets could be valuable. But perhaps the Ravens are confident in Jackson’s chances to improve as a passer. Or, perhaps they believe a quality big receiver will be available in one of the following rounds. Either way, they got a bona fide weapon in Brown.
The Redskins traded up to address a position that was quietly of need. In doing so, they’ve tacitly declared that they missed on 2017 second-round pick Ryan Anderson, who has been mostly nondescript in his first two seasons. Sweat is a “great on paper” workout guy who has also flashed on film. The hope is he will provide a raw edge-bending presence opposite Ryan Kerrigan, who remains solid—if not spectacular—off the left side. Worth noting is that Sweat will be taught by Jim Tomsula, who is one of the industry’s highest regarded position coaches.
Abram is considered a Landon Collins, Keanu Neal type, which means he’s a box thumper who will also be expected to match up to tight ends. Multidimensional safeties are key in today’s NFL, though it’s worth noting that Oakland’s system—which is built around traditional zone coverage—does not quite put as fierce of demands on safety versatility as other schemes. Given the recent signing of LaMarcus Joyner, who can play the slot but is better at safety, Abram’s arrival suggests a looming end of days for 2016 first-rounder Karl Joseph. That’s not surprising given that the Gruden regime barely put Joseph on the field early last season.
This is a simple case of a team drafting for need (which is not an unwise approach). Nose-shade tackle Brandon Mebane is still viable, but next year he’ll be 35 and on a contract that could be nullified for $4.25 million in cap savings. Last year’s third-round pick, Justin Jones, can be a solid starter alongside Mebane, but depth behind him was needed after the loss of free agents Damion Square, Corey Liuget and Darius Philon this spring. The question is whether Tillery will rotate into that 3-tech role with Jones or fill Mebane’s nose tackle role, which carries different duties. Given Tillery’s combination of size and athleticism, the Chargers probably hope the answer is both. Which explains why they invested a first-round pick.
After dealing Frank Clark earlier this week, this pick comes as a surprise to no one. Collier might not have Clark’s cat-like quickness or terrifying closing speed (few, if any players, do), but he’s twitchy, versatile and—compared to Clark—cheap. The Seahawks like defensive linemen who can play inside or outside, and they believe Collier can fit that bill.
Finally: a player who fills an immediate need for the Giants. The candidates at the left corner spot opposite Janoris Jenkins (who might be a cap casualty in 2020 if he doesn’t play with more consistency) were fringe backup Tony Lippett, who has played in only three games since tearing his Achilles in training camp of 2017, or Sam Beal, a third-round pick in last year’s supplemental draft who missed his entire rookie year with a shoulder injury. Defensive coordinator James Bettcher believes in blitzing, either through the A gaps or off the slot (depending on his personnel). You can’t readily do that without playing one-on-one coverage outside. Bettcher’s pressure-heavy approach puts him in that quarter of NFL defensive schemers for whom a corner is a necessity while an edge rusher is almost just a luxury.
The Falcons took two first-round offensive linemen in one draft…and that’s after signing a pair of what looked like would-be starting guards in free agency. Assuming this is it for O-line investments, we now know where the Falcons stand (if not going into camp, then likely coming out of it): Chris Lindstrom will be the left guard and Kaleb McGary will be the right tackle, leaving Jamon Brown at right guard and James Carpenter in a somewhat expensive backup role. OK, it all makes sense now, though if you wanted to nitpick, you could say this is a lot put into one part of the roster, given that Atlanta’s four-man pass rush could use a bit of a boost.
Harry often played inside at Arizona State, but he does not at all fit the profile of a Patriots slot receiver and will almost certainly take most of his snaps outside. He’s a big target who can win on 50/50 balls, be it downfield or especially on in-breaking routes. His most likely role will be that of an X-receiver, which, it’s worth noting, is where the suspended Josh Gordon plays. By picking Harry, the Patriots not only avoid having to depend on Gordon (anything the ex-Brown provides moving forward would just be bonus) or on Demaryius Thomas (an X- wide receiver coming off a torn Achilles), they also fill a notable area of need.
For years the Cardinals have tried to make do with a shoddy No. 2 corner—an unfortunate gamble considering that their No. 1 corner, Patrick Peterson, is amongst the handful of cover artists whom offenses specifically try to avoid. At Washington, Murphy was an off-coverage defender, preferring to keep eyes on the backfield and on his receiver. That approach translates well to a zone scheme, but with Patrick Peterson headlining Arizona’s secondary, Murphy will be asked to play a lot of man coverage.
Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus believes you cannot draft a corner high if that corner cannot play man-to-man. Fortunately, Ya-Sin did that often and effectively at Temple. He’s more of a mirroring style cover artist than physical press defender, which makes him a nice complement to unsung hero Pierre Desir, who can travel with plus-sized No. 1 receivers. With Kenny Moore in the slot, Indy has three high-level corners, which only helps Ebeflus continue to expand his scheme.
In today’s NFL, most elite defensive ends rush off the offense’s right side, making right tackles every bit as important as left tackles. Taylor, who will play opposite another high second-rounder in third-year pro Cam Robinson, can hold his own in pass protection, but like many classic right tackles, he is first and foremost a mauling run-blocker. This is excellent value for the old school, run-oriented Jags, whom many thought might take the Florida offensive tackle in Round 1.
Some believe that Samuel will need the aid of schemed tactics like bunch alignments and pre-snap motion to help beat press coverage. Fortunately, Kyle Shanahan’s detailed, pass-friendly system is ripe with those. After drafting Dante Pettis last year, the Niners now have two young receivers to move around the formation, along with star tight end George Kittle and stud receiving backs Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon.
Little has the size and physical attributes to be a ready-made pass protector in 2019. Scouts like his hand-foot coordination and arm length. Stylistically, that fits the left side, which would suggest that 2017 second-rounder Taylor Moton, who dabbled at left tackle early last year but is more confident at right tackle, will have a long-term home at his top position. It would also suggest that Daryl Williams, who has been solid but missed essentially all of last season with a knee injury, will not be re-signed when his contract expires after this season. Or, if the Panthers do retain Williams (who is only 26 and improved a lot in 2017), they could move Moton to guard. The addition of Little gives them stability and options.
Longtime Redskin Ty Nsekhe was a nice free-agent signing, but few believed that the career-long swing tackle would assume a new starting job at age 33. Now, Nsekhe provides O-line depth. With Ford, a classic pile-driver whom some see as a guard but the Bills surely see as a right tackle, Buffalo’s offensive line—the AFC’s worst in 2018—has four new members joining incumbent left tackle Dion Dawkins: center Mitch Morse, guards Spencer Long and Quinton Spain and now the rookie from Oklahoma.
A long corner with press-man and zone abilities is exactly what new defensive coordinator Todd Bowles wanted. (Remember, Bowles was the head coach with the Jets last year when they spent big free agent money on a similarly built specimen, ex-Ram Trumaine Johnson.) Bowles believes in overload blitzing, especially right up the middle where it’s a shorter path to the quarterback. To do this, you must trust your perimeter defenders in solo coverage. With 2018 second-rounder Carlton Davis coming on strong down the stretch after a poor start, the Bucs are solid on both sides. Vernon Hargreaves will move to the slot (a better fit) and M.J. Stewart (also a 2018 second-rounder) becomes a utility backup, if not a contender for a starting safety job. This secondary now has options and depth.
The Raiders rotated at every defensive position last year except linebacker. Daryl Worley and Gareon Conley have both teased high-level talent but have yet to consistently deliver on it. Some scouts believe Mullen must improve his route recognition. He’ll be asked to play a lot of matchup zone coverage in Oakland’s scheme.
This is as simple as the Broncos addressing their biggest need, as this interior offensive line was in dire straits in 2018. Connor McGovern has struggled too often in one-on-one scenarios at right guard, while left guard Ronald Leary is coming off an Achilles injury and can be cut in 2020 for $8.5M in cap savings. Either of those men could be replaced, except there is also a vacancy at center, with Matt Paradis now in Carolina. Risner can play anywhere; most likely the team will choose to plug him into their weakest spot.
John Elway had a big arm and that’s what he looks for in a QB. Hence the trade for Joe Flacco and now the trade up to get flamethrower Drew Lock. The question is whether Lock can refine his mechanics and decision-making, which is hard to do after joining the NFL. With Flacco aboard, Lock will be given time.
Stemming from his Patriots roots, Matt Patricia prefers big, thumping linebackers. He has one in Christian Jones, but Jones is average on the field in a contract year—hence the selection of Tavai. What will be interesting is whether Tavai’s arrival impacts where the explosive but somewhat inconsistent 2017 first-round linebacker Jarrad Davis plays.
Jenkins—who has a nice combination of size, power and length—is probably more of a guard than a center, though he can play both. In Green Bay he will play right guard—the recently signed Billy Turner, who is coming off a stellar season in Miami and just signed for $28M over four years ($9M guaranteed), will play right tackle, where Bryan Bulaga has battled wear and tear and is in a contract year. Don't be surprised if Jenkins learns from the bench initially.
The Patriots draft a cover corner in the second round almost every year. With J.C. Jackson emerging as a stellar No. 2 opposite All-Pro Stephon Gilmore, they have no immediate need here, especially given that Patrick Chung often mans the slot. It’s too early to dump 2018 second-rounder Duke Dawson and there’s a lot to like about undrafted fourth-year pro Jonathan Jones, who surprisingly moved to safety in the Super Bowl. Bill Belichick must simply love Williams, because the Pats don’t NEED him and may not even have an active roster spot for him on some Sundays this year. It's worth noting that The MMQB's Albert Breer mocked Williams to the Patriots, saying "Bill Belichick is always looking ahead, and he mentioned in his pre-draft press conference the need to match up with bigger receivers and athletic tight ends." That could be Williams's role in the future.
Denzel Ward is a budding star, but T.J. Carrie and Terrance Mitchell are both up-and-down No. 2/No. 3 corners. To stabilize things and add depth, the Browns tapped a long, speedy playmaker in Williams. Transitional movement can be a bit of an issue with Williams, so he might not be able to match every style of receiver. But Ward typically takes the smaller, quicker guys, and Williams has the body to compete with the bigger guys.
Blair is touted for his downhill style and aggression. He won’t have much pressure on him, as Tedric Thompson can man the free safety spot, while the grossly underrated Bradley McDougald can handle strong safety. He played both two-deep and single-high concepts in college.
Simple as this: Veteran center Max Unger abruptly retired and the Saints are unwilling to be weak inside. With Drew Brees at QB, the integrity of the interior pocket is as critical as anything. Scouts believe McCoy can assume a starting job right away. He is a crafty technician who has the movement skills to execute man blocks and zone blocks.
Banogu adds value to an important position in Indy’s zone-oriented scheme. The team can’t count on getting away with a feeble pass rush again in 2019 like they did for much of ’18. Adding ex-Chief Justin Houston in what’s likely a 30-snaps-a-game role was a good first step, but they still needed this second step, especially since the jury is out on last year’s second-round defensive ends, Kemoko Turay and Tyquan Lewis. Stunts and D-line slants are critical to Indy’s pass rush approach, so Banogu’s success will be largely determined by how well he can move at angles.
Kyle Rudolph is a sturdy professional tight end, but with limited twitch and very little speed or quickness, you can’t design much for him. His production comes only within the context of the scheme. The hope is Smith can change that. New offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski has coached tight ends and will have creative ways to feature the position.
With Corey Davis emerging as a featured weapon in Tennessee’s new Rams-style scheme last year and Adam Humphries getting big money to handle the slot, Brown’s arrival gives the Titans a steady all-around puzzle piece to build into their multi-receiver route combinations. It also ensures that speedster Taywan Taylor will play strictly a specialty role, which betters suits him.
This pick addresses a position of need for the Bengals, since Tyler Kroft is now a Bill, injury-prone Tyler Eifert is on a one-year contract and C.J. Uzomah is a backup. Sample is perceived as more of a blocker than a receiver, though a team doesn’t take a tight end in Round 2 if it's not confident that he can do both. In new head coach Zac Taylor’s scheme, Sample’s on-the-move blocking prowess will be key.
In 2017 Philly had a deep backfield and the NFL’s most expansive ground game. That changed last year, and now we’re seeing the correction. Jordan Howard, an excellent all-around zone runner, was acquired for a conditional sixth round pick that can rise to a fifth. And he’ll eventually take a back seat to Sanders, a smooth, patient three-down back who has the lateral agility to create his own space.
Houston’s deficiencies in outside coverage were costly in the playoff loss to Indianapolis. Johnson is a long-bodied raw talent who will often be asked to play to safety help, which sounds liberating but can be challenging depending on the offensive design. If he doesn’t pick things up quickly, he’s still of value, since corners Bradley Roby and Johnathan Joseph are in contract years. Also, Aaron Colvin is under contract for three more years but can be cut for $6.75M savings after next season, which means Houston could lose all three starting corners next offseason.
From Houston’s side of things, the analysis for first-round pick Tytus Howard can essentially be applied here, with the additional note that the Texans now have an insurance policy at a position of dire need. Both men will make the roster (obviously), the question is how soon can both start?
And, tacitly, THERE’S the Chiefs’ answer to the Tyreek Hill problem. It’s an important answer because this offense was built predominantly around Hill’s unique talent. It’s unfair to expect any player to provide what Hill provides (provided), but stylistically, Hardman can stretch the field and stress the defense in multiple ways.
A steady possession target is just the thing for an Eagles offense that found its much-needed speed in free agent signing DeSean Jackson but was looking for receiver depth and a possible replacement for Nelson Agholor, who has long been rumored to be on the trading block (and whose contract expires after this year).
The Cowboys emphasize initial quickness off the snap more than almost any team, as it’s key to their gap-penetrating scheme and the slants and stunts that define their four-man rush concepts. Hill is raw but has that good first step. Dallas only needs him to play 20 or so snaps a game, as he’ll fill the spot left by dedicated pot smoker David Irving.
Campbell is a fast, multidimensional playmaker who can be plugged into a gadget role and expand Indy’s offensive designs. If he builds on the route-running improvement that he teased in the pre-draft process, he could be a serviceable starter if Chester Rogers and Devin Funchess hit free agency next year.
Adderley will predominantly play centerfield in Los Angeles’s single-high, Seahawks-style scheme, allowing bourgeoning superstar Derwin James to play the box. But given Adderly’s potential versatility and James’s unbridled versatility, it could soon be time for the Chargers to expand and diversify that scheme.
The Rams could be shifting to more dime packages, as they’re thin at inside linebacker and now deep at safety, with the rookie likely to play behind John Johnson and Eric Weddle. Rapp plays faster than he timed in the pre-draft process, and will likely become a versatile piece in a Rams scheme that’s slated to expand in 2019.
We don’t know exactly what Kliff Kingsbury’s system will entail in the NFL, but presumably it will feature quick-strike passes. In that case, run-after-catch becomes critical, and shifty players who can create their own space are worth their weight in gold. This is a great value…the only downside is it essentially came at the cost of the QB the team traded up to No. 10 for last year. We’ll do the Cards a favor and grade this pick in a vacuum, not factoring in the Josh Rosen sacrifice.
Expensive new safety Tyrann Mathieu is versatile … which means the Chiefs needed to find another versatile safety—and with Daniel Sorensen being mostly a dime linebacker, Kansas City looked in the draft. Thornhill, like Mathieu, can play both safety spots, as well as slot in nickel and linebacker in dime.
D.K. Metcalf’s lack of route running diversity and refinement caused him to freefall like no receiver in recent draft memory. Fortunately, he landed in a perfect situation. Russell Wilson is a superb deep ball thrower and Metcalf can stretch the field. And Metcalf’s route running is less of an issue given how often Wilson goes off-schedule. Plus, Metcalf’s big body will be valuable on Wilson’s trademark sandlot plays. His presence does not fill the void that will be left by Doug Baldwin's possible retirement…slot receiver remains a need for Seattle.
Yes, some will say the Steelers essentially traded Antonio Brown for Diontae Johnson and a fifth-rounder. But let’s remember: Johnson is much, much cheaper, and also—presumably—not anywhere near as much of a problem in the locker room. Pittsburgh’s scheme is simple and Ben Roethlisberger is easy to play with. Can Johnson compete right away?
As we covered in the Deebo Samuel write-up, San Francisco’s scheme is receiver-friendly, assuming that receiver has respectable fundamentals. With Hurd, that may take time, as his experience is predominantly at running back. Hurd appears to simply give the Niners depth and options, but given that this team had other needs (namely defensive back), we can assume he wouldn’t be here unless Kyle Shanahan had a specific plan for him.
Here’s the edge rusher that New York’s roster has been pining for. Some are concerned that Polite isn’t stout enough to hold up against the run, but you can live with your third-rounder becoming just a situation player if those situations involve critical third downs.
If you want to be a smashmouth offense, it’s hard to envision where a gadget, flex-style tight end fits in. Oliver did not block at San Jose State…if he comes on the field in any situation other than an obvious passing one, defenses could get a tell.
Henderson is not here to replace Rams star RB Todd Gurley, but he is definitely here to spell him. Gurley’s knee is a long-term concern and his performance fell off drastically last season, so the Rams likely view this as an upgrade at both Henderson’s and Gurley’s spots.
Cincy’s linebacking corps is grossly lacking. Though weighing 240, not 250-plus, Pratt has the inside thumping style of play that the team sacrificed in dumping Vontaze Burfict. Don’t be surprised if the rookie plays a big role right away.
Picking Singletary suggests the Bills will not retain LeSean McCoy when his deal expires after this season. Like McCoy, Singletary has a renowned jump cut, which can be a valuable trait in the NFL, where so much of the running game comes down to creating your own space within confined areas.
Some see Sternberger as a Travis Kelce-type weapon. That’s not to say the one-year Texas A&M wonder will become an All-Pro, but it does mean the Packers are addressing their need for a receiving tight end after having passed on Iowa’s Noah Fant earlier. In new head coach Matt LaFleur’s scheme, the tight end will be asked to play by himself on the weak side at times. You need athletic receiving prowess to do that.
It’s not often that a rookie QB enters the NFL with a familiar target, but that’s what McLaurin gives Dwayne Haskins after both played together at Ohio State. Washington does as good as job as almost any team at creating opportunities for receivers through design.
Deiter started all four years at Wisconsin (after redshirting) and should start in Year One with the Dolphins, who had iffy backups Chris Reed and Isaac Asiata penciled in at left guard. Deiter is a strong, nasty competitor who also has versatility.
The Rams have said they want to sign Marcus Peters, who’s in the final year of his deal, to a long-term contract, but could drafting Long mean the end is near for Aqib Talib, whose contract expires after this season? Some see Long as a slot corner, but his physical press-man style might translate effectively to the outside.
Takitaki was considered a boom-or-bust performer at BYU. Assuming the Browns will re-up productive middle linebacker Joe Schobert when his contract expires after 2019, this pick could have been made with special teams primarily in mind.
The Lions play a lot of six-and seven-DB packages under Matt Patricia, making secondary depth and versatility a key component for this defense. Anyone in this scheme must have the ability to match up one-on-one in space, and the Lions hope Harris can do that, particularly against tight ends.
With right guard Kevin Pamphile in a contract year, the hope is Davis can assume that starting job in 2020. He’s known as a mauler, which is interesting because the Titans employ an outside zone scheme, which is built more on agility.
Layne is perceived as a plus-sized bump-and-run corner, which the Steelers need after finally admitting (albeit tacitly) that Artie Burns has been a bust. Pittsburgh runs a zone scheme, but their outside corners are often required to matchup to receivers vertically. With ex-Chief Steven Nelson aboard, Layne has time to develop from an initially lesser role.
Kansas City’s run defense has been perplexingly poor over the years. A change in scheme (from Bob Sutton and his 3-4 to Steve Spagnuolo and his 4-3) will help, but so will adding new bodies up front. Scouts like Saunders’s suddenness.
Many saw Ferguson as a higher-level prospect, but he didn’t test well prior to the draft. His film, however, showed good hand usage and a productive speed-to-power rush. The Ravens need a replacement for Za’Darius Smith and might need another next year for Matt Judon, who is slated for free agency. 2017 second day picks Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams have not developed, so the Ravens are trying again.
Warring is a freakish, high-upside, under-the-radar prospect for a Texans team that drafted two tight ends last year—Jordan Akins and Jordan Thomas—and found distinct roles for both of them. With Ryan Griffin in a contract year, the team appears to be looking for insurance and long-term options.
This one is a little surprising, as Harris figures to be more of a first- and second-down back, which is precisely what last year’s first-round pick, Sony Michel, is for this team. James White and Rex Burkhead are also under contract to 2021. Still, Harris is a productive player from a storied program, so you can’t outright rip the decision.
In Seattle’s scheme, linebackers must have the speed to drop deeper into coverage and then quickly converge on the ball after the catch. Some question whether Barton climbs high enough on those charts, but with Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright still going strong, Seattle need only find a No. 3 linebacker to play 12-16 snaps a game.
Behind Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker, the Colts struggled at No. 3 linebacker spot, which was often manned by Matthew Adams. Opponents at times went with two tight ends so they could deliberately attack Adams in coverage. Some might question whether Okereke, at 240 pounds, is stout enough to be a No. 3 base linebacker, but in Indy’s scheme, quickness is most critical in that position.
Last year’s supposed second-round steal Connor Williams struggled to anchor and maintain pass blocks as a rookie, and he might not have the girth to prosper in the NFL. McGovern provides some long-term insurance here. Plus, if La’el Collins is not re-signed in 2020, that could necessitate Williams moving to right tackle, opening a spot at guard.
Edoga was a highly touted prospect who did not always play up to his abilities at USC. The Jets appear to be rolling the dice, hoping to find a developmental project who could sneak into a starting role down the road. It’s worth noting that their top three offensive tackles, Kelvin Beachum, Brandon Shell and backup Brent Qvale are all in the final year of their contracts.
Yes, drafting Marquise Brown in the first round takes some of the sting off Baltimore’s dire need at wide receiver, but entering Friday night, it was still a position of need. Boykin is viewed more as a developmental project. Do they believe he can contribute immediately in a No. 4 role?
Giants fans might be decrying the failure to get an edge rusher earlier, but defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s blitz-intensive system puts more emphasis on players winning in solo coverage than off the edge. The hope is that Ximines can follow through.
The Bills are not deep at wide receiver and they need to simplify their system for young QB Josh Allen. A great solution is to go with multiple tight ends, which puts the defense in more predictable looks and gives you more dimension in the running game.
With long arms, Evans is built like a true offensive tackle. That’s not to say he can’t play guard—but if he is indeed a tackle, it likely means the Rams plan on moving their presumed tackle of the future, 2018 third-round pick Joe Noteboom, inside. Something to keep an eye on.
Edwards was a versatile four-year starter in the SEC. Now he joins a Bucs scheme that places a premium on safety versatility, with Todd Bowles at defensive coordinator. The new staff is not tied to any of the incumbent safeties, and none of those incumbent safeties—save for maybe Justin Evans—are clear starters. Could Edwards become a first-unit player?
And so it turns out that the dark horse QB in this draft wasn’t a dark horse at all, just another projected long-term backup. Given Cam Newton’s shoulder problems, backup QB might prove to be a critical position in Carolina.
Mattison’s determined, urgent running style fits a team that wants to be run-oriented. He certainly won’t challenge Dalvin Cook for significant playing time, but he could spell Cook in certain run-oriented packages.