If you root for the Jets or the Bucs or the Browns, or another team hovering on the fringes of prime draft position, you may be tempted to root for some post-Thanksgiving losses. In some years, especially those with bumper crops of quarterbacks coming, there’s real validity to the idea. Our advice to those good people: Don’t bother, not this year.
That doesn’t mean that the 2019 draft is bereft of talent. It’s not 2013 or ’15 at the top, and it does have depth that, as scouts see, should last into the fifth round. It’s just that, unless you have the first or second pick, this might not be the best year to be high in the draft order. Evaluators across the league will tell you: When it comes down to it, this is one of those years where there isn’t much separating the fourth pick from the 14th.
“The first round is full of land mines,” says one veteran AFC exec.
“This is not a top–10 type of draft,” adds an AFC college scouting director. “To me, there are a lot pass rushers and D-linemen, but I don’t know that there’s anyone that compares to, say, Bradey Chubb, if you take [Nick] Bosa out of it.”
That sets the backdrop for you. This year’s class is light on the skill positions, and heavy on defensive linemen, with a shaky group of quarterbacks mixed in. How do the players stack up right now? With the help of some veteran evaluators, we here's our first Big Board of the year...
1. Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Height: 6' 4" | Weight: 265 pounds
The true junior was the best player in America through three weeks of this season before shutting it down. Assuming he checks out physically coming off his core muscle surgery, he’s the leader in the clubhouse to be the No. 1 prospect going into pre-draft process.
2. Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama
Height: 6' 3" | Weight: 295 pounds
Williams didn’t start for the Tide in 2017. A year later, he has a shot to go in the Top 5, which is a good example of how the Nick Saban Machine rolls. And while it may seem a little off to see him ranked higher than Ed Oliver, the disruptive Williams is more scheme versatile than his more ballyhooed counterpart.
3. Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
Height: 6' 2" | Weight: 290 pounds
Oliver has missed the last three weeks after taking an illegal low hit to the knee against Navy, and his status is up in the air for tomorrow’s home finale against Tulane. That said, he’s still the guy who was drawing comparisons to John Randle over the summer. And while not every team loves him (will he come in at 280 or 300 pounds?), for some, he projects as a foundational type player.
4. Devin White, Stack LB, LSU
Height: 6' 0" | Weight: 240 pounds
Positional value being what it is, I doubt White—an off-the-ball linebacker—goes this high. But he’s a very good player who could be the nerve center for an NFL defense for a lot of years. He’s a better athlete than last year’s top inside ’backer, Roquan Smith, but isn’t quite as instinctive or productive as the Bears rookie was at Georgia.
5. Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
Height: 6' 4" | Weight: 280 pounds
The crazy thing about Gary is that he’s still seen as being pretty raw with a lot of room to grow. And at 280 or so pounds, the buzz is that he’ll run a 40-yard dash in the 4.7s. He may not be the best of the defensive linemen in this class as a rookie, but has the potential to be a monster long-term.
6. Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
Height: 6' 4" | Weight: 265 pounds
Ferrell has picked up where he left off last year. He has 17 sacks in his last 19 games, and is very natural as a pass rusher, both in his build and how he plays.
7. Josh Allen, OLB/DE, Kentucky
Height: 6' 4" | Weight: 255 pounds
The biggest question on Allen is how an NFL team will wind up using him. Like Minnesota’s Anthony Barr and Buffalo’s Tremaine Edmunds, he can play on the line or off, and can do a lot of things well. He’s been productive this year, with 11 sacks, 15.5 tackles for losses, five forced fumbles and four pass breakups.
8. Jeffrey Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
Height: 6' 3" | Weight: 300 pounds
His background will be a topic of discussion in February and March; as a high schooler he pleaded no contest to simple assault after striking a woman several times during a fight. Conversely, those in Starkville have vouched to NFL teams for the kind of person Simmons has been over his three years on campus. On the field, he’s capable of ruining games from the interior.
9. Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
Height: 6' 3" | Weight: 185 pounds
He’s tall and skinny, and isn’t perfect for everyone. But the Seattle-style Cover-3 defense teams will love him, and, of course, he comes from a school with great lineage at his position.
10. Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
Height: 5' 11" | Weight: 185 pounds
Scouts will tell you that Baker is probably a better cover guy than Williams. The problem? He’s about four inches or so shorter than Williams.
11. Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
Height: 6' 3" | Weight: 315 pounds
Wilkins is a freakish athlete who some project to contribute a little on offense in the NFL too, with his natural bend, change-of-direction ability, body control and ball skills. The question will be, as an attacking, upfield type, where he finds his home on defense in the NFL.
12. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
Height: 6' 3" | Weight: 350 pounds
Lawrence is a little antithetical to Wilkins—just a massive body with strength and athleticism to clog up the middle for a defense. The Tigers defense deploys him aggressively, but in the NFL he’ll likely find his value as a brick wall of a run defender.
13. Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 230 pounds
Lots of scouts will tell you he’s staying in school, and that he wants to play with his younger brother, who arrives on campus next year. As naturally gifted as Herbert is, he could use a little work—his accuracy has leveled off after a hot start to the season. All that said, given the position he plays, and how it’s drafted, staying in school would probably be a pretty serious gamble.
14. Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 300 pounds
Williams started at right tackle as a true freshman in 2016—not an easy trick to pull off—before flipping to play the left side last year. He’s in the running for all the postseason honors a lineman can contend for. The question in the pros will be whether he has the traits to play left tackle, or if he’d be better suited to play on the right side or inside.
15. Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn
Height: 6' 4" | Weight: 325 pounds
He’s a little like Lawrence—athletic enough to have third-down potential, but mostly just a gigantic dude who will be a problem for opponents in the run game. He’s listed at 325 pounds, and at 20 years old, he’s got room to grow.
16. Montez Sweat, DE/OLB, Mississippi State
Height: 6' 5" | Weight: 250 pounds
Another pass-rusher in a class full of them, Sweat is a tall and angular pressure player who will probably go just behind his teammate Simmons.
17. Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama
Height: 6' 6" | Weight: 315 pounds
Davis is different than his teammate Quinnen Williams—much more the big, strong, hold-the-fort type who’d fit right in as a 5-technique in a 3-4 front. And he does have a longer tracker record than Williams too, which does say something since the two were competing for playing time.
18. Dre’Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State
Height: 6' 2" | Weight: 290 pounds
Another product from the pipeline of Ohio State defensive line coach Larry Johnson, Jones is scratching the surface of his athletic potential, and has size and burst as a disruptive interior rush man.
19. Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
Height: 6' 1" | Weight: 195 pounds
Thompson, like Williams, has emerged with increased playing time, and proven to be an instinctive and quick centerfielder of a safety. The big issue with him scouts have – he’s pretty skinny.
20. Devin Bush, Stack LB, Michigan
Height: 5' 11" | Weight: 230 pounds
What Bush lacks in size he makes up for in instincts, speed and intensity. One of the best defensive playmakers in the country, and a linebacker who will need the right fit schematically to thrive in the NFL.
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