The 2019 draft is officially in the books, so not we analyze how the names printed on paper look before they ever don an NFL uniform. This year had some doozies, with shocking rises and surprising falls. Some teams maximized value top to bottom, others reached like crazy. Here, I give my picks for the team drafts I like, those I love and those I shove.
San Francisco 49ers
Jimmy Garoppolo’s arsenal was suspect prior to the draft. George Kittle looks like a star and Dante Pettis made major strides in year two, but the depth of weapons was certainly lacking. On day two, however, the 49ers added two talented receivers with extreme upside. Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd are versatile, athletic players with very different projections. Samuel should be an instant impact player as a movable route runner, while Hurd is still raw and new to the position, but has a ridiculously high ceiling. With Kyle Shanahan running the show, the 49ers appear to have something going offensively.
Oh, and they landed Nick Bosa, maybe the best prospect in the draft, with the second pick.
I loved almost everything about the Cardinals draft. Their focus was clearly giving Kliff Kingsbury enough ammunition to make his Air Raid offense a smash hit. Well, that produced the top quarterback in Kyler Murray, two dynamic receivers in Andy Isabella and Hakeem Butler and two project pass catchers with potential in Caleb Wilson and KeeSean Johnson. Plus, they got arguably the best corner in the class in Byron Murphy with the first pick of the second round. That is a pretty nice haul for Steve Keim.
There are two things keeping their draft from jumping to the “Love It” section, however. For one, the bungling of Josh Rosen cast a cloud over the entire process. Sure, they were able to nab Isabella for Rosen, but in effect, they selected the 62nd pick with last year’s 10th overall pick. But the bigger issue was their lack of attention to the offensive line. The Cardinals had the worst line in football last year, yet did not select a lineman until the sixth with Lamont Gaillard. Now, Gaillard is pretty good value as a potential starter in round six. But they still enter training camp with a new quarterback, who is undersized, and little in the way of protection.
Offensive line, offensive line, offensive line. Vikings fans shouted it from the rooftops, as the line had become the scapegoat for Minnesota’s lost 2018 season. Rick Spielman responded in kind, getting the best center prospect in the draft in Garrett Bradbury with his first pick, then finding another potential day one starter in the fourth with Dru Samia. On top of that, they addressed tight end when Irv Smith fell to them in the second. And then on day three, thanks to a barrage of trades the day before, they amassed capital to fill depth at a myriad of needs. The only real blemish was the lack of attention to the defensive line, as only one pick, a sixth-rounder, went towards that end.
Who would have thought that Washington would come away with arguably the best draft on paper? Obviously, things will have to play out to fully judge how they did, but instant reaction for them is almost universally positive. Starting with day one, Washington was able to get the quarterback management wanted in Dwayne Haskins without having to give up any draft capital. Then they traded back into the first to get Montez Sweat, a guy many saw as a top-three edge prospect. Plus, Haskins’ college target Terry McLaurin was a third-round pick, adding familiarity for the new quarterback.
Day three may have exceeded it all. Washington got some solid interior linemen with Wes Martin and Ross Pierschbacher to protect Haskins, and one of the top college running backs in Bryce Love. But the big get was Kelvin Harmon in round six. Harmon was projected to go around round three, but concerns over his modest quickness appeared to tank his stock a bit. Alas, Washington came out the beneficiary of his slide, as few receivers in the class possess his combination of size and aggressive, technical route running.
The Colts, watching the guy they love go earlier in round one, did what smart teams do and built a cache of day two picks. And then with those day two picks, they got one of the top corners in Rock Ya-Sin, a versatile pass rusher in Ben Banogu, a speed demon in Parris Campbell and one of the more solid all-around linebackers in Bobby Okereke. That is four guys on day two who should compete for starting spots in 2019. Chris Ballard continued the defensive focus in day three, going after traits-forward defensive backs, a linebacker literally named Speed and Gerri Green, an athletic pass rusher who fell by the wayside working opposite Montez Sweat. While Ballard’s choices largely were not the splashiest or most hyped names, he addressed every major need in some fashion.
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Not to be outdone, the Titans matched their division rivals stride for stride through four rounds. They hit the nail on their head with each of their first four picks, fillings need and maximizing value each step of the way. They opened with Jeffery Simmons, arguably a top-10 talent whose stock tumbled a bit due to an off-field transgression from high school and an ACL injury earlier this year. He may not play in 2019, but Tennessee still found a potential franchise defensive tackle in Simmons. He has all the length one could want, with a tough frame and immense explosion.
They followed that pick up with receiver A.J. Brown in round two. Tennesee has struggled to supply Marcus Mariota with weapons since taking him second overall in 2015. But with Brown, they got probably the quintessential high floor receiver in the draft. He should start and contribute right away. Then with Nate Davis, they found a tough-nosed mauler of a blocker to protect Mariota inside. Finally, in Amani Hooker, Tennessee got a hyper-intelligent, ball hawk safety who may be the best mid-zone defender at his position. He is not overly athletic or explosive, but his awareness should translate to NFL secondary. Overall, Tennessee found the pieces to help keep pace with a surging AFC South.
New York Giants
Daniel Jones is a social media punchline right now. Ignoring that Dave Gettleman said that he “knows for a fact” two teams were looking to get Jones before pick 17. Ignoring that the Giants in theory did the right thing and got the guy they had highest on their board. And further ignoring that Gettleman said Jones is 100% a franchise quarterback who could sit for three years. They may have set their franchise back another five to ten years drafting a guy with meh traits and so-so production for a mediocre program…with the sixth overall pick. With Dwayne Haskins still available. With Josh Allen and Ed Oliver still available. Who knows; maybe Duke’s coaching staff held Daniel Jones back in his college career. And maybe literally everyone else is wrong and Dave Gettleman got the right guy here, and he has his new Eli Manning. Maybe.
The rest of the first round was also strange. With the pick acquired from the Odell Beckham trade, New York nabbed nose tackle Dexter Lawrence. And while Lawrence is a good player and one of the best tackles in the class, it is hard to justify trading Beckham and coming back with Lawrence and Jabrill Peppers. And then, the Giants gave up assets to move up into the first to get corner Deandre Baker. Again, good player, but hard to figure out exactly what the Giants’ draft plan is. Are they acquiring assets for the future, or going for it in 2019?
Outside of the first, things look a little better. For one, they finally addressed pass rushers with Oshane Ximines in the third round. They also found some good depth pieces at corner to accompany Baker, and a solid productive linebacker in Ryan Connelly. But their first round has some all-time bust potential. It also has some major boom potential, but most are siding with bust in the immediate wake.
From top to bottom, I like more of the Raiders’ picks than I dislike. Isaiah Johnson, Maxx Crosby and Hunter Renfrow are all solid picks for their draft position. I even like the Johnathan Abram pick a bit in the first. But the big problem with the Raiders’ draft is this: when you trade stars to acquire a load of first round picks, you have to nail those first round picks. And with at least two of them, I have serious questions.
Clelin Ferrell is a really good player. I expect him to start and play well in his NFL career. But at number four? There were better players available period, and several of them played his position. Had Mike Mayock chosen to wait until 24 to get Ferrell, there is a decent chance he still would have been on the board. Ferrell at four simply does not seem like great value on paper.
And speaking of value, first round running backs. There are very few running back prospects I would consider for the first round. Most of them are named Saquon Barkley. Josh Jacobs is not Saquon Barkley. He is big, he is patient, fast-ish and he can make plays as a receiver out of the backfield. But he is not a home run-hitter. With a first round running back, teams should get a game-breaking level of potential, something I do not believe Jacobs has.
–Sam Smith is the Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage Vikings and Deputy Editor for Full Press NFL. Like and Follow @samc_smith.
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