1 Mistake Each NFL Team Must Avoid Making in the 2019 NFL Draft

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystFebruary 20, 2019

1 Mistake Each NFL Team Must Avoid Making in the 2019 NFL Draft

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    NFL draft classes are defined as much by mistakes as success stories. 

    In 2014, the Rams used the 13th overall pick on Aaron Donald, who would go on to become a two-time Defensive Player of the Year. Nine picks later, Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam didn't listen to advisers and forced the front office to select a spectacular flameout in quarterback Johnny Manziel. 

    A franchise's future can hinge on making the right choices during the draft.

    A team may target the wrong position. It might jump on a particular prospect too early in the process. Another may not be aggressive enough to address its most dire need. Previous mistakes can cloud judgments. Weighing whether to accept a trade offer can be tricky as well.

    Every situation is different, but each team has a clear mistake to avoid in the 2019 NFL draft. 

AFC East

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    Buffalo Bills: Placing Emphasis on Skill Positions, Not O-Line

    Bills general manager Brandon Beane mustn't become enamored with skill-position players. Yes, Buffalo desperately needs upgrades at running back and wide receiver, but the foundation of quarterback Josh Allen's potential success will be built along the offensive line. 

    Right now, the Bills look to have long-term pieces in place with tackle Dion Dawkins and guard Wyatt Teller. The newly signed Spencer Long will provide a veteran presence at center. However, right tackle Jordan Mills and guard John Miller are set to become free agents in March. 


    Miami Dolphins: Not Committing to a Full Rebuild

    A quick fix isn't forthcoming, and the Dolphins shouldn't be searching for one. They need to take a long-term approach starting at the game's most important position. 

    If Oklahoma's Kyler Murray or Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins aren't available at No. 13, Miami doesn't need to force the issue. Instead, acquiring draft assets while creating financial flexibility are staples of a strip-it-to-the-studs approach. A trade down may be the team's best plan of action. 


    New England Patriots: Not Drafting Brady's Heir Apparent 

    Tom Brady is fresh off his sixth Super Bowl title and remains astonishing at age 41. But the Patriots can't assume he'll continue to play at a high level and avoid drafting his heir apparent. 

    Backup Brian Hoyer may have been vital to New England's latest Super Bowl triumph, but the 33-year-old doesn't have what it takes to be a franchise quarterback. The Patriots might not have to spend a first-round pick on a signal-callerthey didn't with Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett, after allbut they do need to draft someone to groom behind Brady. 


    New York Jets: Thinking a Specific Elite Prospect Best Fits Gregg Williams' System

    Last year, the Jets let the draft come to them and selected quarterback Sam Darnold with the third overall pick. They're positioned to do the same this year if general manager Mike Maccagnan doesn't become overly enamored with system fit. 

    The 2019 class is loaded with defensive line talent, particularly at the top. At No. 3, the Jets should select the best available prospect—whether it's Ohio State's Nick Bosa, Alabama's Quinnen Williams or Kentucky's Josh Allen—and disregard any concerns they may have about how that player fits into Gregg Williams' defensive scheme. 

NFC East

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    Dallas Cowboys: Not Getting Ezekiel Elliott Some Help

    Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott won't turn 24 until July. Even so, the Cowboys can't bank on their workhorse at all times. They should prioritize selecting a backup at some point during the 2019 draft. 

    Between the regular season and the playoffs, Elliott touched the ball a whopping 433 times last year. Backups Rod Smith and Darius Jackson were ineffective during the regular season and non-factors in the postseason. Tight end and defensive line may be more pressing needs, but the Cowboys can't ignore running back entirely. 


    New York Giants: Bypassing Chance to Acquire Eli Manning's Heir Apparent

    The Giants appear comfortable going into another season with quarterback Eli Manning leading the way. They shouldn't be. 

    New York's primary goal during the draft should be to acquire its quarterback of the future by any means necessary. With the sixth overall pick, the Giants are already positioned well to do so. However, they may need to trade up to ensure they get their preferred prospect (likely Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins). 


    Philadelphia Eagles: Thinking Running Back Is a Primary Need

    Running back seems to be a popular prediction for the Eagles with the 25th overall pick despite the quality backfield depth the team already has. 

    Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles may be impending free agents, but Corey Clement, Josh Adams and Wendell Smallwood are still on the roster, and they could provide plenty of production.

    The Eagles don't require an every-down back to be successful, and the thought Philadelphia could use an Ezekiel Elliott-like runner is misplaced. 


    Washington Redskins: Hoping Alex Smith or Other Veteran QBs Are the Answer

    After suffering a gruesome leg injury in November, Washington quarterback Alex Smith may never play football again. The team has to plan like he won't even if senior vice president of player personnel Doug Williams won't admit it

    Smith has a $20.4 million cap hit in 2019, which puts Washington in a difficult position. Neither Colt McCoy nor Josh Johnson should be considered anything more than short-term options. 

    With Smith's career in jeopardy, Washington needs to add a young, promising quarterback. It should either select one early in the draft or hope a later-round pick can handle the responsibilities. 

AFC North

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    Baltimore Ravens: Assuming a Top Running Back Prospect Is Needed

    The Ravens don't necessarily need to invest heavily in running backs to support their new run-based offense featuring quarterback Lamar Jackson. His mere presence creates wider running lanes and more defensive breakdowns.

    Drafting Alabama's Josh Jacobs, this year's top running back prospect, would thus be counterintuitive even though Alex Collins, Buck Allen and Ty Montgomery will soon be free agents. The Ravens defense will be far more in need of a talent infusion if C.J. Mosley, Terrell Suggs, Za'Darius Smith or Michael Pierce (restricted) sign elsewhere in free agency. 


    Cincinnati Bengals: Thinking QB Andy Dalton Is the Long-Term Answer

    New Bengals head coach Zac Taylor must avoid a hasty marriage with quarterback Andy Dalton. 

    "I've always been impressed with the way [Dalton] plays the game," Taylor told The MMQB's Albert Breer. "I've always known he's a smart guy. We haven't had a chance to meet on football or anything like that. But I do know that he'll be able to quickly master this offense."

    If the Bengals have the opportunity to select a top quarterback prospect at No. 11, they should at least consider doing so. 


    Cleveland Browns: Prioritizing Wide Receiver Over Bigger Need Areas

    Wide receiver is a position of interest for the Browns, but it doesn't sit atop their primary problem areas. Defensive tackle, offensive tackle, pass-rushers and cornerback depth take precedent.

    The Browns have a solid receiving corps in Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins (restricted free agent), and quarterback Baker Mayfield made each of them better last season. Cleveland could also decide to bring back 2015 first-round pick Breshad Perriman, who signed with the team in mid-October.

    The Browns do need receiver help, but other positions deserve more attention with the 17th overall pick. 


    Pittsburgh Steelers: Not Making ILB the Team's No. 1 Priority

    The Steelers can't replace Ryan Shazier's unique blend of athleticism and playmaking ability, but linebacker remains a draft priority. They can't ignore it like they did last season, when a mediocre group of mix-and-match parts failed to make an impact. 

    Pittsburgh's defense missed the presence of an every-down option, so it can't place the search for a sideline-to-sideline defender on the backburner. The Steelers' options will be limited, which means they must manipulate the draft order to fill a gaping hole. 

NFC North

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    Chicago Bears: Assuming a Specific Position Can Be Filled in Third Round

    Without a first- or second-round draft pick, the Bears shouldn't look to prioritize a certain position. 

    Adrian Amos and Bryce Callahan are set to become free agents, which places Chicago's secondary in the spotlight. But even if the Bears re-sign one or both of them, they may still be in the defensive back market. Chicago can release cornerback Prince Amukamara after the 2019 season at almost no cost, and safety Eddie Jackson has a troublesome injury history. 

    The Bears' best course of action is to be patient and see what high-upside talent is still available in the third round. 


    Detroit Lions: Being Afraid to Select a Difference-Maker Despite Draft Status

    It's easy to say the Lions should take whatever elite prospect falls to them at No. 8, but the reality is not that simple. 

    If Ohio State's Nick Bosa, Alabama's Quinnen Williams, Kentucky's Josh Allen and Michigan's Rashan Gary are off the board, Detroit could and should jump on a prospect like Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson earlier than expected. The goal is simple when selecting so high: draft a difference-maker, regardless of where they're projected to be drafted. 


    Green Bay Packers: Prioritizing Defense Over Offense

    A pair of first-round picks places the Packers in an enviable position. 

    The Packers defense is going to take a hit with Clay Matthews, Muhammad Wilkerson, Bashaud Breeland and Jake Ryan about to enter free agency. However, Green Bay can't go into next season with question marks at the skill positions. 

    Wide receiver, tight end and running back help would all be welcome additions. With young offensive mind Matt LaFleur taking over as head coach, the Packers need to give him and Aaron Rodgers new weapons with which to work. 


    Minnesota Vikings: Targeting Any Offensive Lineman When a Specific Kind Is Needed

    The Vikings not only need to bolster their offensive line; they need an attitude adjustment to become more physical. Head coach Mike Zimmer is openly imploring his team to play a nastier brand of football in 2019. 

    Minnesota's scouting process will go beyond identifying the top offensive line prospects. The Vikings won't be better with a wall-off lineman who doesn't drive defenders off the line of scrimmage and finish blocks. They must place a special emphasis on linemen willing to bury an opponent at every opportunity.

AFC South

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    Houston Texans: Thinking Team Can Wait On an Offensive Lineman

    If the Texans select anyone other than an offensive lineman in the first round, it will be a disaster. The organization can't rationalize going in another direction after quarterback Deshaun Watson endured a league-high 62 sacks this past season. 

    Fortunately, the offensive tackle class is deeper than normal with Alabama's Jonah Williams, Florida's Jawaan Taylor, Oklahoma's Cody Ford, Ole Miss' Greg Little, Washington State's Andre Dillard, Kansas State's Dalton Risner and West Virginia's Yodny Cajuste in the first-round conversation.

    The Texans should double down with another blocker on Day 2 of the draft to boost the entire front. 


    Indianapolis Colts: Leaving Draft Weekend With Same QB Room

    Jacoby Brissett shouldn't be a member of the Colts after draft weekend. 

    Three or four quarterbacks figure to hear their names called during the first round in April, but the class lacks quality depth beyond that. Meanwhile, as many as eight teams are in the market for a quarterback. Even with Nick Foles and Teddy Bridgewater added to the mix, there's far less of a supply of quality options than demand. 

    Now healthy, Andrew Luck's status is no longer in question. Trading Brissett would give the Colts an opportunity to add another draft asset before they lose their backup quarterback to free agency next year. 


    Jacksonville Jaguars: Not Being Aggressive in Drafting a Franchise Quarterback

    It's time for the Jaguars to get serious about a quarterback.

    The team plans to move on from Blake Bortles, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. If Jacksonville doesn't sign a veteran such as Foles or Bridgewater in free agency, it should turn its attention toward acquiring a top prospect.

    The Jaguars currently own the seventh overall pick, directly behind the New York Giants. They may have to leap over the Giants to ensure they leave the draft with a franchise signal-caller in tow.


    Tennessee Titans: Not Helping Marcus Mariota

    The Titans are running out of time to determine whether Marcus Mariota is a franchise quarterback. To do so, they must prioritize improvement at the skill positions above all else.

    The Titans haven't placed enough talent around the 2015 No. 2 overall pick, and he continues to deal with the turmoil of offensive coordinator changes. That uncertainty can't continue as he enters the final year of his rookie contract.

NFC South

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    Atlanta Falcons: Prioritizing O-Line Instead of D-Line

    The trenches are a sore spot for the Falcons. Both sides of the ball need help, especially if defensive tackle Grady Jarrett leaves during free agency. 

    Positional value should dictate the Falcons' draft approach, not preference

    Even if the Falcons retain Garrett, they could use a new 1-tech and increased edge pressure. Those positions are more likely to be properly addressed in the first round, whereas starters at guard are regularly found during Day 2 or later. 


    Carolina Panthers: Not Properly Protecting Cam Newton

    Julius Peppers, Thomas Davis and Ryan Kalil won't play for Carolina next season, which means the Panthers are Cam Newton's team more than ever. As such, the Panthers must make a conscious effort to protect the quarterback whose season ended early thanks to a shoulder injury that required surgery. 

    Left tackle Matt Kalil hasn't lived up to his five-year, $55.5 million deal, and right tackle Daryl Williams is set to become a free agent. Uncertainty also exists along the interior.

    Carolina doesn't have to spend a first-round pick on the offensive line, but it can't be ignored, either. Going into the season with some combination of Matt Kalil, Taylor Moton, Tyler Larsen, Trai Turner and Greg Van Roten isn't enough. 


    New Orleans Saints: Using Lone Premium Pick on Anything Other Than a QB

    The clock is ticking for the Saints to find their eventual replacement for Drew Brees.

    Brees is still an MVP-caliber quarterback, but he also turned 40 in mid-January. The Saints can't possibly believe Taysom Hill is his long-term replacement. Meanwhile, Teddy Bridgewater will almost certainly be looking for a starting opportunity in free agency. 

    After trading up for defensive end Marcus Davenport last year, the Saints don't have a first-round pick in this year's draft. If they don't use a second-rounder on their quarterback of the future, they may wind up wasting another year of developmental time behind Brees.


    Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Not Trading Down

    The Buccaneers sit in a position of strength. This year's fifth overall pick could become the draft's most tradable commodity since Tampa Bay sits directly in front of the quarterback-needy New York Giants.

    If the opportunity to trade down for additional assets arises, general manager Jason Licht can't turn it down. Tampa Bay likely won't be in position to draft one of the elite defensive prospects, so it'll be better served moving down, adding more picks and addressing its issues later in the draft.

AFC West

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    Denver Broncos: Thinking Joe Flacco Is the Answer

    The Broncos' pending trade for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco doesn't mean that position is off the table for them during the draft. Flacco turned 34 in mid-January, and the final three years of his contract don't carry any dead money if the Broncos decide he isn't the right fit. 

    General manager John Elway clearly wanted a reliable veteran presence behind center, but he can't ignore the position beyond that point. The team can now get ahead of the curve by drafting another signal-caller to develop as its future starter. 


    Kansas City Chiefs: Looking to Offense Instead of Addressing Awful Defense

    All of the Chiefs' key offensive components return next season, so using major draft resources on that side of the ball is a waste. Meanwhile, Kansas City ranked 31st in total defense and 24th in both points and yards per play allowed last season.

    An already underachieving unit could potentially lose outside linebacker Dee Ford, defensive lineman Allen Bailey and cornerbacks Steven Nelson and Orlando Scandrick in free agency. Justin Houston is a potential salary-cap casualty as well. The Chiefs need defensive reinforcements in the worst way. 


    Los Angeles Chargers: Not Protecting Philip Rivers at All Costs

    Defensive tackles Brandon Mebane, Damion Square and Darius Philon are pending free agents, and the Chargers also decided not to pick up Corey Liuget's contract option. While L.A.'s defense has a gigantic hole along its interior, the front office should prioritize the other side of the ball. 

    To maximize their championship window, the Chargers must do everything they can to keep 37-year-old quarterback Philip Rivers upright. They require an upgrade at right tackle in particular after Sam Tevi's disappointing 2018 performance. 


    Oakland Raiders: Thinking the Team Must Replace Khalil Mack, Amari Cooper

    The Raiders will be the most active team early in the draft with three first-round picks, two of which came from the Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper trades. Even though edge-rusher and wide receiver are areas of need, attempting to replace those former franchise cornerstones with prospects at the same position would be misguided.

    Rather than attempting to make amends for two ill-advised trades, the Raiders should focus on putting together the best possible combination of three first-round picks based on the available prospects.

NFC West

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    Arizona Cardinals: Letting Josh Rosen Get in the Way

    The Cardinals are starting over from scratch, and their approach should reflect their current standing. Quarterback Josh Rosen shouldn't have any effect on the team's plans if another signal-caller is a better fit for its new direction under head coach Kliff Kingsbury. 

    Rosen may be Arizona's answer under center, but his skill set doesn't necessarily translate to Kingsbury's scheme. If the coach and his staff are enamored with Oklahoma's Kyler Murray, the Cardinals can't be afraid to move on from Rosen and find the right guy for their new head coach. 


    Los Angeles Rams: Settling for Need Instead of Maximizing Their Lone Top Pick

    The Rams don't have much draft capital after trading away this year's second- and third-round picks. As a result, they must maximize their lone premium selection by concentrating on value, not need. 

    The 31st overall pick should present interesting scenarios. If a top talent falls further than expected, the Rams could pounce even if that prospect doesn't address an immediate need area (outside linebacker, secondary or offensive line). Adding another potential difference-maker on an already talented roster is more important than filling a hole. 

    Conversely, the Rams could flip their first-rounder to a team that wants to get back into Round 1. 


    San Francisco 49ers: Thinking the Offense Is Complete

    Jimmy Garoppolo isn't the solution to all of the 49ers' problems. Getting their franchise signal-caller back from a season-ending injury will help them rebound in 2019, but the team's offense is far from complete. 

    Wide receiver and right guard remain problem areas, but they aren't likely to address either position with the second overall pick. The 49ers can concentrate on defense early in the draft and then turn their attention to a potential starting X-receiver and interior blocker in subsequent rounds. 


    Seattle Seahawks: Allowing Frank Clark to Dictate Draft Approach

    Even if the Seahawks re-sign defensive end Frank Clark or use the franchise tag on him, their need to find a pass-rusher won't disappear. While Clark and defensive tackle Jarran Reed combined for 23.5 sacks last season, no one else on Seattle's defensive line managed more than three. 

    Seattle should prioritize finding another edge-rusher to complement or replace Clark.


    All contract figures via Spotrac.  


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