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.