2019 NFL Draft: 1 Surprise Prospect Every Team Could Target
The NFL draft brings a sense of hope to teams adding new talent, promise to young players joining the NFL's ranks and pageantry to the entire process.
The draft is also a reality show full of twists, turns and surprises. While it's easy to think we know what's going to happen heading into the draft, the early rounds regularly shock us.
Who actually expected the Cleveland Browns to draft undersized quarterback Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall last year? Who saw the Baltimore Ravens trading up to grab Lamar Jackson with Super Bowl-winning quarterback Joe Flacco already on the roster?
Surprises happen early in the draft, and the 2019 edition will be no exception. With this in mind, let's examine one surprising pick each team could conceivably pull the trigger on. These are either prospects who don't fill an obvious team need or whose skill sets make them an unusual choice for the draft slot. We'll be focusing primarily on the first round, except in cases when teams do not own a first-round selection.
Arizona Cardinals: QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
It's unlikely that the Arizona Cardinals will actually go after Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick. Arizona just spent a first-round pick on Josh Rosen last year. Yet, we know that new head coach Kliff Kingsbury likes Murray a lot—prior to joining the Cardinals, he stated he'd use the first overall pick on him if he could—and there would almost certainly be a trade market for Rosen.
This is exactly the idea that ESPN's Adam Schefter floated during a recent appearance on Get Up!
It would be surprising for the Cardinals to target Murray with Rosen already on board, but we've seen some pretty strange moves in the draft before. Completely ruling it out at this point would be premature.
Atlanta Falcons: WR N'Keal Harry, Arizona State
The Atlanta Falcons used a first-round pick on wide receiver Calvin Ridley in last year's draft. Would they really use the 14th overall pick on a wide receiver like Arizona State's N'Keal Harry in 2019?
The Falcons can get out of Mohamed Sanu's contract while paying just $2.8 million in guaranteed money. If they do, they could well be looking for a third receiver to partner with Ridley and Julio Jones. This would be a major surprise, but at least some out there believe Atlanta wants to add another top-tier receiver to the group.
Baltimore Ravens: RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama
The Baltimore Ravens have a couple of quality running backs in Kenneth Dixon and Gus Edwards already on the roster. However, if Baltimore is truly going all-in on its run-first offense behind quarterback Lamar Jackson, adding a true workhorse running back to the backfield would make sense.
This is where Alabama's Josh Jacobs enters the equation. The underclassman has declared for the draft, and he'd give the Ravens the kind of powerful runner needed to vie with the likes of Joe Mixon and Nick Chubb in the AFC North.
Adding Jacobs would be a surprise because running back isn't a glaring need for Baltimore, but the idea of him leading a run-heavy attack is enticing.
Buffalo Bills: S Deionte Thompson, Alabama
The Buffalo Bills would probably be best suited to take a player at No. 9 who can help second-year quarterback Josh Allen. A wide receiver or an offensive tackle would make sense there, but what if the Bills instead targeted a playmaking safety like Alabama's Deionte Thompson?
Last season, guys like Derwin James and Minkah Fitzpatrick showed just how big an impact first-year safeties can have on a defense. While adding Thompson wouldn't directly aid in Allen's development, it would help ease the pressure on him by strengthening the secondary and limiting the weight the quarterback would have to carry.
Carolina Panthers: RB Damien Harris, Alabama
The Carolina Panthers used a first-round pick on former Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey two years ago. In 2018, McCaffrey was one of the top workhorse backs in the NFL, amassing 1,098 yards rushing, 867 yards receiving and 13 total touchdowns. But what if the Panthers were to target a running back like Alabama's Damien Harris at 16th overall?
Adding Harris would give Carolina a solid complement to McCaffrey, lighten the third-year back's workload and give the Panthers the kind of backfield duo the rival New Orleans Saints have had in Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara.
Surprising? Yes. A terrible idea? No.
Chicago Bears: WR Parris Campbell, Ohio State
The Chicago Bears don't have a glaring need at wide receiver—not after acquiring Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel last offseason while drafting Anthony Miller. However, this doesn't mean Chicago shouldn't plan for its future at wideout, and drafting a guy like Ohio State speedster Parris Campbell in the third round would be a good place to start.
The Bears will likely part with Kevin White this offseason and can financially afford to part with Robinson next offseason if he continues to be injury-prone. Robinson was good, not great, when healthy, but he was rarely at 100 percent and missed three games because of injury. Adding Campbell would give Chicago a downfield threat to groom for Robinson's possible departure.
Cincinnati Bengals: QB Daniel Jones, Duke
Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton is a Pro Bowler when he's playing his best, and he has two years remaining on his contract. This is why it would be surprising to see the Bengals take a quarterback like Duke's Daniel Jones with the 11th overall pick.
But Cincinnati is set to hire a new head coach—likely Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor—and that head coach may want his own guy under center.
While Dalton has led the Bengals to the postseason five different times, he never delivered a postseason win. If owner Mike Brown wants to change the perception of his franchise under the new coach, just getting to the postseason can no longer be enough.
Cleveland Browns: TE Noah Fant, Iowa
The Cleveland Browns already have an up-and-coming star in tight end David Njoku. With bigger needs at offensive and defensive tackle, it would be a surprise for Cleveland to target another tight end like Iowa's Noah Fant in the first round just two years after taking Njoku.
However, it would make some sense. New head coach Freddie Kitchens, a former tight ends coach, regularly called pass plays out of multiple-tight-end sets in 2018. This often led to Baker Mayfield targeting primarily blocking tight ends like Orson Charles. Adding Fant would give Mayfield two elite pass-catchers at tight end and help Kitchens continue dialing up mismatches.
Dallas Cowboys: C Garrett Bradbury, NC State
The Dallas Cowboys have invested heavily in the offensive line in recent years. Therefore, it would be a bit of a surprise to see them use their second-round pick on a center such as NC State's Garrett Bradbury.
However, it wouldn't necessarily be a wrong move. The future surrounding Travis Frederick (Guillain-Barre syndrome) is uncertain, and Joe Looney is only a serviceable stand-in starter. The Cowboys do expect to have Frederick back at some point, possibly in the offseason.
"He's gotten stronger and stronger," head coach Jason Garrett told reporters. "He's worked very hard in the weight room to get himself back and we do anticipate him, if things continue the way they do, to be involved in our offseason program right from the get-go."
However, adding Bradbury would give the Cowboys a backup plan for Frederick and further depth along the interior of the line overall.
Denver Broncos: EDGE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
Would the Denver Broncos really use a top-10 draft pick on a pass-rusher for the second year in a row? It would be surprising, but if Clemson star Clelin Ferrell is sitting there at No. 10, it may also be entirely plausible.
Denver has tried using multiple pass-rushers in the rotation before, but players like Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett haven't exactly worked out. If new head coach Vic Fangio decides to build his defense around a multifaceted pass rush, adding a guy like Ferrell to the mix of Von Miller and Bradley Chubb might just be the way to go.
Detroit Lions: WR N'Keal Harry, Arizona State
The Detroit Lions have bigger needs than wide receiver. They have a legitimate No. 1 in Kenny Golladay, and assuming Marvin Jones returns healthy, they have a solid No. 2. It would also be surprising to see defensive head coach Matt Patricia pass on defensive talent in this draft.
However, adding a receiver like Arizona State's N'Keal Harry at No. 8 would conceivably give the Lions the kind of firepower they need to challenge the defenses of the Bears and Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North.
Playing Harry opposite Golladay on the outside would create plenty of mismatches and would potentially help Matthew Stafford return to being one of the top quarterbacks in the game.
Green Bay Packers: TE Irv Smith Jr., Alabama
It would be surprising to see the Green Bay Packers take a tight end like Alabama's Irv Smith Jr. at the end of the first round. Green Bay already has Jimmy Graham, who is set to carry a cap hit of more than $12.6 million in 2019.
However, adding Smith would also make a ton of sense. He would give Aaron Rodgers another premier red-zone target—a role Graham failed at in 2018—for next season, and he could take over for Graham in 2020.
Graham is due to earn $11.7 million in 2020, but only $3.7 million of that is guaranteed.
Houston Texans: WR D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi
It would be a bit surprising to see the Houston Texans take a wide receiver like Mississippi's D.K. Metcalf in the first round. Houston already has an elite receiver in DeAndre Hopkins, a young up-and-comer in Will Fuller and a savvy veteran in Demaryius Thomas.
However, adding a guy like Metcalf would give quarterback Deshaun Watson another reliable wideout to target downfield. Thomas, who is only under contract for one more season (with no guaranteed money), is a short-term solution at best. Metcalf, on the other hand, is a young receiver Watson could grow alongside for the foreseeable future.
It might not be a total shock for Houston to go receiver, as both Fuller and Thomas are coming off season-ending injuries, but really, not going offensive line in Round 1 would be surprising. Watson was sacked a whopping 62 times in 2018.
Indianapolis Colts: S Taylor Rapp, Washington
The Indianapolis Colts used a first-round pick on safety Malik Hooker just two offseasons ago. This is why it would be a surprise for them to use another on Washington safety Taylor Rapp in 2019. However, there are reasons why the move makes sense.
For one, Hooker has been a mixed bag in his two seasons as a pro. Indianapolis will have to decide after 2019 whether to exercise his fifth-year option. Adding Rapp would give the Colts a succession plan if the answer is no. Rapp is also a versatile defender who could play alongside Hooker at strong safety or in the slot if the former Ohio State star ends up panning out.
Jacksonville Jaguars: DT Ed Oliver, Houston
At this point, it would be a mild surprise if the Jacksonville Jaguars took anything other than a quarterback with the seventh overall pick. It would certainly be a surprise if they took a defensive tackle, as Jacksonville spent a first-round pick on Taven Bryan just last offseason.
However, Houston's Ed Oliver may prove to be too strong a talent to pass up if he falls to No. 7. While it's too early to make a direct comparison, Oliver has the potential to be an Aaron Donald-type disruptor on the interior of a defensive line.
Adding Oliver would likely mean parting with Marcell Dareus, but since Dareus has no guaranteed money remaining on his contract, this would be a possibility.
Kansas City Chiefs: WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
It would be surprising to see the Kansas City Chiefs draft a wide receiver like Oklahoma's Marquise Brown at the bottom of Round 1. With guys like Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins on the roster, receiver isn't exactly the team's biggest need.
However, the Chiefs almost certainly want to keep their offensive juggernaut rolling in 2019. With wideout Chris Conley set to hit the open market, drafting a guy like Brown may be the safest way to ensure that happens.
Los Angeles Chargers: S Taylor Rapp, Washington
After the Los Angeles Chargers took safety Derwin James with the 17th overall pick in last year's draft, it would be a bit surprising to see them take another safety with the 28th pick this year. However, there are reasons why adding Washington's Taylor Rapp to the mix makes sense.
For one, Rapp is a versatile defender who isn't limited to only playing safety. He can cover receivers out of the slot, and he can move down into the box to attack the run. The Chargers could also lose safety Adrian Phillips in free agency, so drafting Rapp would give James the running mate in the secondary that he needs.
Los Angeles Rams: CB Deandre Baker, Georgia
The Los Angeles Rams acquired cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib last offseason, which is why it would be surprising for them to use a first-round pick on another corner like Georgia's Deandre Baker. However, the reality is that the duo of Peters and Talib hasn't given L.A. a top-tier pass defense.
As a team, the Rams allowed an average of 236.3 yards passing per game in the regular season, 14th in the NFL. Talib missed half the season because of injury, but even so, the presence of pass-rushers like Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh should give the Rams a better pass defense than 14th.
Perhaps adding a guy like Baker on the back end would.
Miami Dolphins: RB David Montgomery, Iowa State
Running back is not the biggest need for the Miami Dolphins. Therefore, it would be a bit surprising to see them draft one like Iowa State's David Montgomery with the 13th overall pick.
However, it wouldn't be the most bizarre idea. The Dolphins do not have a true workhorse back on the roster. Kenyan Drake and Kalen Ballage have been good in spurts, but neither projects as an every-down back. This year's leading rusher, Frank Gore, is scheduled to hit free agency, too.
Miami's new head coach—expected to be New England Patriots defensive play-caller Brian Flores—may want to build his own roster from the ground up. Given the re-emergence of the running back in today's NFL, he may want to start with a guy like Montgomery.
Minnesota Vikings: CB Byron Murphy, Washington
The Minnesota Vikings used a first-round pick on cornerback Mike Hughes last offseason. They also have first-round corners Xavier Rhodes and Trae Waynes on the roster, so using a first-rounder on a cornerback like Washington's Byron Murphy would be surprising.
Yet, there's a scenario where it would make a lot of sense. Waynes has been a good, not great, cornerback in his four seasons as a pro. Minnesota picked up his fifth-year option, but that deal is only guaranteed for injury. If the Vikings decide they can do better at cornerback than Waynes, they may well dump him and grab a guy like Murphy after all.
A trio of Rhodes, Hughes and Murphy would be tremendous, and the Vikings would bypass the decision on Waynes' future contract entirely.
New England Patriots: QB Drew Lock, Missouri
Drafting a quarterback to replace Tom Brady wouldn't be a complete shock, as the New England Patriots are going to have to at some point.
However, grabbing a guy like Missouri's Drew Lock at the bottom of the first round would still be surprising. Brady is still playing at an extremely high level, and as long as New England remains a Super Bowl-caliber team, it makes more sense to select prospects who can help win now.
Adding a wide receiver or tight end to help Brady would make more sense, but adding a quarterback would help prepare for Brady's eventual departure.
New Orleans Saints: RB Darrell Henderson, Memphis
The New Orleans Saints don't have a first-round selection because of the trade to acquire pass-rusher Marcus Davenport in last year's draft. Seeing them use their second-round pick on a running back would be a bit surprising because of the presence of Alvin Kamara.
Kamara showed during the first month of this season that he's perfectly capable of serving as New Orleans' workhorse back. However, he also appears most efficient when splitting time. With Mark Ingram set to become a free agent, Memphis' Darrell Henderson would provide that complement. He isn't quite the bruiser that Ingram has been, but he's a shifty between-the-tackles runner who could be used interchangeably with or alongside Kamara.
Running back is not New Orleans' biggest need, but adding a guy like Henderson may prove to be its smartest surprise move.
New York Giants: LB Devin White, LSU
It wouldn't be a total shock to see the New York Giants take a quarterback with the sixth overall pick. It would be equally unsurprising to see them take an offensive tackle to protect Eli Manning or an edge-rusher to pressure opposing quarterbacks.
It would be more surprising to see New York target an off-ball linebacker like LSU's Devin White. However, we've seen in recent years the importance of having a true sideline-to-sideline defender at the second level. Just look at the impact Leighton Vander Esch and Darius Leonard had as rookies in 2018.
Adding a guy like White would do wonders for the Giants defense, even if the sixth overall spot seems a little high to take him.
New York Jets: CB Greedy Williams, LSU
The New York Jets, who allowed an average of 254.1 yards passing per game in 2018 (24th in the NFL), need help in the secondary. It would not be a surprise at all for them to select a cornerback at some point in the draft.
Taking a guy like LSU's Greedy Williams with the third overall pick, though, would be shocking. Given the bevy of talented defensive linemen and edge-rushers in this draft class, No. 3 feels like way too high to take a corner. However, we just saw the Browns draft a cornerback No. 4 overall in last year's draft (Denzel Ward), and that decision paid off far more often than not.
If the Jets are serious about fixing their pass defense, Williams may indeed be the target.
Oakland Raiders: LB Devin White, LSU
We talked about the potential impact a linebacker like Devin White could have on a defense in the Giants section. We also discussed why picking an off-ball linebacker in the top 10 would be surprising. All of this holds true for the Oakland Raiders and the fourth overall selection, though for Oakland, it may actually be slightly less surprising.
While positions like wide receiver and pass-rusher are bigger needs for the Raiders, Oakland is also armed with three first-round picks. If the top sack-artists are off the board by No. 4, grabbing White and targeting a pass-rusher with one of the later selections would actually make a lot of sense.
Philadelphia Eagles: TE Noah Fant, Iowa
Why would drafting a tight end like Iowa's Noah Fant be a surprise for the Philadelphia Eagles? Because the Eagles already have a star tight end in Zach Ertz.
However, adding a guy like Fant wouldn't be the most outlandish decision the Eagles could make. Let's not forget that they relied on multiple-tight-end sets with Ertz, Brent Celek and Trey Burton during their 2017 Super Bowl run with some success. They added Dalls Goedert in last year's draft and could further get back to using multi-tight-end sets in 2019 by adding a guy like Fant to the offensive mix.
Pittsburgh Steelers: QB Will Grier, West Virginia
The Pittsburgh Steelers may be—and by all appearances, will be—without Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown next season. While these losses won't necessarily signal a full-on rebuild, Pittsburgh does need to start considering its future without Ben Roethlisberger, who will be 37 next season and has contemplated retirement in the past.
If the Steelers feel the end for Big Ben is sooner than later, a quarterback like West Virginia's Will Grier at 20th overall would make some sense. It would still be a bit surprising, as Pittsburgh just used a third-round pick on Mason Rudolph last year, but Grier has the accuracy and the anticipation needed to keep Pittsburgh relevant in the next era of AFC North competition.
Grier and Rudolph could compete to see who deserves to take the mantle from Big Ben.
San Francisco 49ers: CB Greedy Williams, LSU
It would be a surprise for the San Francisco 49ers to use the second overall pick on a cornerback like Greedy Williams—not because he isn't an elite prospect or because corner isn't a position of need. It would be a surprise because a corner just shouldn't go second overall in this draft.
The 49ers could grab a pass-rusher like Josh Allen or a defensive tackle like Quinnen Williams in that slot. Either would provide better "draft value." However, if San Francisco is sold on Williams and determined to find a running mate for Richard Sherman—and that's a big if, as the 49ers actually ranked 11th against the pass in 2018—there's no real reason to get cute and bypass the selection because of outside perception.
Seattle Seahawks: WR D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi
Wide receiver isn't the biggest need for the Seattle Seahawks, so drafting a guy like Mississippi's D.K. Metcalf would be a bit surprising in the first round. Seattle already has quality receivers in Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett and would be better served targeting the offensive line or a tight end at No. 21 overall.
Yet, if the Seahawks are hoping to complete the transition to being an offensive team, grabbing a wideout just might be the move to make. With Chris Carson and the Seahawks running game rolling, it would be extremely difficult for opposing defenses to also slow a trio of Baldwin, Lockett and Metcalf in any given game.
Russell Wilson is clearly the heart and soul of this franchise, and getting him receiving help could never be a bad idea—even if it is a surprising one.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama
There are two reasons why adding Alabama running back Josh Jacobs with the fifth overall pick would be surprising for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The first is that No. 5 appears to be far too high in this draft to take a running back. The second is that Tampa just used a second-round pick on USC product Ronald Jones last year.
However, Jones was a major disappointment as a rookie (just 44 yards and one touchdown), so he shouldn't even factor into the equation. Also, if the Buccaneers are convinced Jacobs can have a Todd Gurley-like impact on their offense, there's no reason not to scoop him up at No. 5.
Adding Jacobs could give recently hired head coach Bruce Arians his new version of David Johnson with which to work.
Tennessee Titans: WR Hakeem Butler, Iowa State
It would be surprising to see the Tennessee Titans go after a wideout like Iowa State's Hakeem Butler in the first round because Tennessee just used a first-round pick on Corey Davis two offseasons ago. At the same time, it would make some sense, as quarterback Marcus Mariota doesn't have many reliable options after Davis.
Running back Dion Lewis finished second on the team behind Davis with 59 receptions. Taywan Taylor finished second in receiving yards with just 466. Tight end Delanie Walker should return after missing most of 2018 with a broken ankle, but Tennessee is severely lacking in outside receiving talent.
It would be surprising to see the Titans use a first-round pick on a receiver so soon after spending one on Davis, but it would also benefit Mariota and his development.
Washington Redskins: QB Will Grier, West Virginia
The Washington Redskins need to figure out a plan at quarterback for 2019. Alex Smith and Colt McCoy suffered broken legs in 2018, and Smith's legitimately seems career-threatening. At the very least, the Redskins cannot assume Smith will be healthy to start the season.
Grabbing a quarterback such as Will Grier with the 15th overall pick would make sense, though it would also be a surprise. This is because the Redskins should have McCoy to start the season, and they still owe Smith $42 million in guaranteed money.
Could Washington justify using its first-rounder on a quarterback when Smith is on the books for so much? Given the rookie wage scale, it's possible. Last year's 15th overall pick, Kolton Miller, signed a four-year deal worth just over $13.4 million. That's backup quarterback money, and it could make having both Grier and Smith on the roster feasible.
*All contract information via Spotrac.