The Most Likely Week 1 Starters in the 2019 NFL Draft
Once again, a handful of rookies are about to take the NFL by storm.
To do so takes a special talent and the right situation. Think Saquon Barkley, Quenton Nelson and Derwin James from a year ago. Others ended up having strong years, but only the aforementioned and a select few stood out as surefire contributors upon arrival.
This year won't be any different, especially as a defensive-minded class that features plenty of pro-ready talent. Position, past production, versatility and sheer talent all project certain names as immediate starters.
Come the first snap of Week 1, these rookies will be in starting lineups and making an instant impression.
The definition of a starter these days isn't so cut and dry. Archaic interpretations label a starter as the first player to get on the field at a position, but more refined usage circles those with the highest snap counts.
While our list predicts every-down starters right out of the gates, the following honorable mentions might technically start in Week 1 on a rotational basis or in specific packages.
Josh Allen, Edge, Kentucky: Allen figures to come off the board in the top 10 and, at the very least, join a rotational pass rush. But setting the edge against the run isn't a strength, so he might come off the field in certain packages.
Brian Burns, Edge, Florida State: Burns is an interesting prospect because he was light in college (235 lbs) but showed up heavier (249 lbs) at the combine. He might face a similar Week 1 fate as Allen, especially if he has to learn a new scheme.
D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss: Everyone's favorite combine prospect, Metcalf plays one of the hardest positions to translate to the pros. His team will expect big things but might lean on him for specific uses in Week 1 when needing to move the chains or near the end zone while otherwise playing consistent veterans.
Devin Bush, LB, Michigan: Bush is one of those linebackers who will probably be playing every snap by the middle of the season. But, at the start, his lack of size for his ideal inside linebacker usage might see him coming on and off the field.
Nick Bosa, Edge, Ohio State
Finally healthy after last season's core muscle injury, only a return of his injury woes could stop Nick Bosa from making an impact on Day 1's first snap.
Bosa, the 6'4", 266-pound disruptor out of Ohio State, didn't lose much stock despite missing time a season ago with a core muscle injury. If anything, he's still in the conversation for No. 1 and will be deployed as such by whoever drafts him.
With a scheme-versatile skill set complemented by a pro-ready body and technique, Bosa shouldn't have many problems getting after NFL quarterbacks. How close he has hovered around No. 1 status all this time should be a big tell that he's one of the only "sure" things in this class.
The team investing such an early pick in him will expect proof of his talent right away—given his past production, Bosa is bound to make it happen.
Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama
Like Bosa, Quinnen Williams is a scheme-versatile prospect who shouldn't have any problems being an automatic contributor no matter where he lands.
Following in the footsteps of Daron Payne, an Alabama defensive tackle and first-round pick who immediately started for the Washington Redskins last season, Williams is a 6'3", 303-pound juggernaut in the trenches. He looks to have the strength, explosiveness and moves to succeed on the outside in a three-man scheme or on the inside in a four-man look.
Like NFL.com's Lance Zierlein put it: "Williams is an instant starter with Pro Bowl potential."
This isn't a case of the right fit getting the most out of Williams. He isn't going to land anywhere boasting enough talent to limit him to a rotation. The team that drafts him is anticipating an instant impact, which he should deliver from the season's first snap.
Devin White, LB, LSU
Again, these high-end prospects aren't getting drafted to be limited.
LSU's Devin White has had an astronomical rise over the course of the draft process, topping out as a possible top-five pick. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. has him fourth on his latest big board, and for good reason.
White, 6'0" and 237 pounds, is the new-age prototype at linebacker for today's NFL. Violent and instinctive enough to patrol sideline-to-sideline against the run, he is agile enough to hold up in coverage, too.
Given White's performance at LSU, his superb path to the draft and the weight of expectations thrown at him by a team drafting in the top 10, White might have a bigger initial impact than even Roquan Smith a season ago.
Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
Unlike the other potential first-round quarterbacks, Kyler Murray might not have a chance to sit and learn.
Other teams will be more understanding with their early-round QBs, like the New York Giants who could give Dwayne Haskins time to develop behind Eli Manning.
Speculated to go first overall, which the Arizona Cardinals haven't exactly shot down, Murray won't get that sort of luxury. Sheer talent matters too. Murray, after all, is a Heisman Trophy winner who can make big plays and create lanes with his legs.
Regardless of where Murray lands, the coaching staff willing to gamble on his massive upside will look to get him on the field right away. It will require trusting the coaching staff to get the most out of him right away too, but that confidence should come hand in hand with drafting him in the first place.
It wouldn't be much of a surprise if Murray is the only first-round starter at his position in Week 1.
Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida
There isn't a Quenton Nelson in this draft, but Florida's Jawaan Taylor has worked his way into becoming the top offensive lineman.
With that status come immediate expectations.
Bleacher Report's Matt Miller is one of many who expects Taylor to come off the board in the top 10. No matter where he goes, the 6'5", 312-pound mauler will be deployed on the right or left side, depending on team need.
The majority of tackle play entering the NFL lately has been underwhelming given the evolution of the college game. Tackles no longer have to drop back and protect as long, and some consistently defenses spy mobile passers (which leads to fewer pass-rushers on a per-play basis). Though Taylor slamming through the SEC and into top-10 status at least assures he'll start from Day 1.
Ed Oliver, DL, Houston
Ed Oliver is going to surprise some on draft day—and probably during his Week 1 debut, too.
A silly stigma surrounds Oliver, criticizing him as "small," just like Geno Atkins and Aaron Donalds were critiqued. But Oliver blew away onlookers at his pro day, running a 4.73 40-yard dash, posting a vertical jump just underneath Von Miller's and besting Saquon Barkley in the short shuttle.
Not bad for a guy who is 6'2" and 287 pounds.
Oliver is an anomaly and his production in college was superb. He'll be expected to consistently pressure quarterbacks at the next level too, which shouldn't be difficult given his incredible makeup. The team grabbing him in the top 15 will want to bring that pressure from the very first snap.
T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
A lack of surefire instant starters at wideout, thanks to this class itself and the problems wideouts have had transitioning to the pros, throws the focus on tight end.
There, Iowa's T.J. Hockenson looks like the best bet. While teammate Noah Fant might have more upside as a weapon, those sorts of tight ends have had problems transitioning in recent years too, with Miami's Mike Gesicki being a prime example.
Hockenson is a more well-rounded prospect whose blocking skill could get him on the field right away. Even Matt Miller grades him higher than Alabama's O.J. Howard, the 19th pick in 2017.
A solid blocker and worthwhile threat through the air, Hockenson is likely to land in a place he's needed to help in all phases right away, meaning he'll top the depth charts on opening day.