- The first round of the 2019 NFL draft is in the books. As many expected, Kyler Murray and Nick Bosa went No. 1 and No. 2 overall, but then things got weird from there. How did your team’s pick(s) grade?
After months of studying prospects’ tape and reading mock drafts, the 2019 NFL draft is finally here. As many expected, the Cardinals took QB Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick, and the 49ers took DE Nick Bosa with the second pick. But after that, things got a little crazy.
Below is our instant analysis and grades for every Round 1 pick.
1. Arizona Cardinals: QB Kyler Murray
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. Keim 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.
2. San Francisco 49ers: DE Nick Bosa
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.
3. New York Jets: DT Quinnen Williams
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.
4. Oakland Raiders: DE Clelin Ferrell
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% 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.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: LB Devin White
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. 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 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.
6. New York Giants: QB Daniel Jones
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.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: DE Josh Allen
This is a great illustration of how the 3-4 vs. 4-3 discussion gets overblown. Allen is viewed as a 3-4 outside linebacker, yet 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.
8. Detroit Lions: TE T.J. Hockenson
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 $10.5 million 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.
9. Buffalo Bills: DT Ed Oliver
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.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers (Trade with Denver Broncos): LB Devin Bush
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.
11. Cincinnati Bengals: G Jonah Williams
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 that 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.
12. Green Bay Packers: EDGE Rashan Gary
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.
13. Miami Dolphins: DT Christian Wilkins
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.
14. Atlanta Falcons: G Chris Lindstrom
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.
15. Washington Redskins: QB Dwayne Haskins
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?
16. Carolina Panthers: DE Brian Burns
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.
17. New York Giants (via Browns): DT Dexter Lawrence
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.
18. Minnesota Vikings: C Garrett Bradbury
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.
19. Tennessee Titans: DT Jeffery Simmons
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.
20. Denver Broncos (from Pittsburgh Steelers): TE Noah Fant
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.
21. Green Bay Packers (via Seattle Seahawks): S Darnell Savage Jr.
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.
22. Philadelphia Eagles (via Baltimore Ravens): T Andre Dillard
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.
23. Houston Texans: T Tytus Howard
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.
24. Oakland Raiders (via Bears): RB Josh Jacobs
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.
25. Baltimore Ravens (via Philadelphia Eagles): WR Marquise Brown
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.
26. Washington Redskins (via Indianapolis Colts): DE Montez Sweat
The Redskins traded up to address a position that was not of significant need, and in doing so, 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” 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.
27. Oakland Raiders (via Cowboys): S Johnathan Abram
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.
28. Los Angeles Chargers: DT Jerry Tillery
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.
29. Seattle Seahawks (via Chiefs): DE L.J. Collier
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.
30. New York Giants (via Seahawks via Packers via Saints): CB Deandre Baker
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 ’17, 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.
31. Atlanta Falcons (via Los Angeles Rams): T Kalen McGary
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.
32. New England Patriots: WR N’Keal Harry
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), they also fill a notable area of need.