2019 NFL Draft: 25 Predictions with Under a Month to Go
The NFL draft never runs in line with conventional wisdom. At least, it doesn't publicly.
That's where the fun begins.
Assumptions are often wrong even when some draft picks seem so obvious. The drama builds and builds as individual and organizational dreams are on the line without a single game being played.
The inevitable always occurs: A trade is made, or a team surprises by selecting a prospect it secretly loved throughout the process. From that point forward, everything changes. The ripples are felt through each subsequent pick or decision.
Trying to predict the madness of draft weekend is as futile as attempting to figure out who will die in Game of Thrones or Avengers: Endgame before they're available to watch. Even so, potential spoilers are lurking; one just has to read between the lines to find some answers.
With that in mind, all the following predictions for the 2019 NFL draft in Nashville, Tennessee, will definitely come true. Maybe.
Arizona Cardinals Draft Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray, Trade Josh Rosen
The Arizona Cardinals, owners of this year's No. 1 overall pick, only have one choice to make. They must choose the prospect who best fits the organization's long-term vision under head coach Kliff Kingsbury.
Oklahoma's Kyler Murray is best-suited to play in Kingsbury's offensive scheme and a better overall prospect than last year's No. 10 pick, Josh Rosen.
"We do know that Kliff Kingsbury loves Kyler Murray," NFL Network's Ian Rapoport said on Up To the Minute Live. "He's been very outspoken about saying that. But of course, he's not making the pick. General Manager Steve Keim is."
Forced marriages rarely work, and the Cardinals don't have to saddle their head coach with a different quarterback when the chance to acquire his preferred choice is readily available.
Plus, Arizona can flip Rosen for another draft asset. Right now, a second-round pick is already on the table, according to Fox Sports draft analyst Joel Klatt. While first-round compensation is preferred, the Cardinals must maximize the quarterback position by drafting the best possible option and moving on from their previous selection.
Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins Is a Top-5 Selection
Once Kyler Murray is off the board with the No. 1 overall pick, the race to acquire Dwayne Haskins will heat up.
Teams must jockey to get ahead of two teams: the Oakland Raiders (No. 4) and New York Giants (No. 6). One of the aforementioned organizations may even be willing to move up and acquire the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year.
Neither has been quiet about its interest. According to NJ.com's Matt Lombardo, the Giants have a top-30 predraft visit scheduled with Haskins. But the Raiders are the key component in this draft dynamic.
John Gruden and Co. have spent "an extensive amount of time" with the 6'3", 231-pound signal-caller, per Draft Analyst's Tony Pauline. The Raiders haven't been shy about their interest in this year's quarterbacks even with Derek Carr still on the roster (more on that shortly).
Haskins' profile could also increase if other organizations like the Miami Dolphins or Washington Redskins are willing to make a move and secure his services.
Oakland Raiders Will Select QB, Trade Derek Carr
The Oakland Raiders-Derek Carr marriage is going to end badly. The organization is openly flirting with younger prospects to see if it can upgrade.
Carr noticed, and he's watching to see how the team proceeds.
Head coach Jon Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock can say Carr is their quarterback, per NBC Sports' Scott Bair. But nobody actually believes them because the team's actions say otherwise.
As mentioned earlier, the Raiders have done extensive research on Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins. Gruden and Mayock had dinner with Oklahoma's Kyler Murray and put him through a workout earlier this week, according to NFL.com's Gil Brandt. The coach "loves" Missouri's Drew Lock after working with him at the Senior Bowl, per Sports Illustrated's Kalyn Kahler.
All this interest adds weight to an earlier report from Bleacher Report's Master Tesfatsion that the Raiders shopped Carr at the combine.
The dominos are in place, and they'll fall during the draft once Oakland drafts its quarterback of choice and unloads Carr and the remaining $78.1 million on his contract.
Missouri QB Drew Lock Becomes a Top-10 Pick
The Oakland Raiders aren't the only team with interest in Missouri's Drew Lock.
The New York Giants "spent extra time" with Lock at the Tigers' pro day, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. Logically, the SEC's record-holder for the most touchdown passes in a season (44) is a better fit with the 17th overall pick—New York's second selection, acquired from the Cleveland Browns in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade. However, the odds of him sliding that far in the first round seem unlikely since the Denver Broncos, Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins sit between the Giants' two first-round slots.
Denver and Washington are the two teams to watch closely.
The Broncos, who own the 10th overall pick, scheduled predraft visits with Lock, Oklahoma's Kyler Murray, Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins and Duke's Daniel Jones, according to The Athletic's Nicki Jhabvala. They're clearly in the quarterback market even after acquiring Joe Flacco.
"Drew could come compete right now," Washington head coach Jay Gruden said, per NBC Sports Washington's JP Finlay.
Washington will have to trade ahead of the Broncos if Lock is its preferred target.
New York Giants Place Priority on Pass Rush
As much as the New York Giants are associated with this year's quarterback class, a good possibility exists they'll pass on the opportunity to take one with the sixth overall pick. They could do so with the 17th, as well.
The Giants are serious about upgrading their pass-rush (which is a bit odd since they traded away Jason Pierre-Paul and Olivier Vernon within the past year).
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, New York has a visit scheduled with Kentucky's Josh Allen. Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver will also visit, per NJ.com's Matt Lombardo. Michigan's Rashan Gary told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero he met privately with the Giants before the program's pro day.
None of those prospects are expected to fall well outside the top 10 picks. All three would immediately help the Giants' 30th-ranked pass rush.
General manager Dave Gettleman seems at peace with Eli Manning for another season, and the team hasn't taken obvious steps under his direction. A pass-rusher remains a premium position, and the Giants might have it marked as a bigger need than quarterback.
Houston DT Ed Oliver Won't Slide out of Top 10
Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver has always been an elite draft prospect. An otherworldly pro-day workout didn't help him regain his top-10 draft status; it merely cemented what was already known.
To demonstrate a full picture of Oliver's athleticism, his athletic testing numbers must be placed into context. The early entrant ranked in the 99.5 percentile among defensive tackles in SPARQ (a combination of speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness), according to Three Sigma Athlete's Zach Whitman.
The 287-pound interior defender's lateral quickness is something to behold. According to Cover 1's Jordan Reid, Oliver's 4.19-second short shuttle at Houston's pro day was on par with wide receivers Antonio Brown (4.18) and DeSean Jackson (4.19).
His predraft performance added to the 117 defensive stops and 75 quarterback pressures he accumulated in three collegiate seasons, per Pro Football Focus.
The New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants and Buffalo Bills are all potential fits among the top 10 selections.
Alabama's Jonah Williams Will Be 1st OT Selected
Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams is a master technician and arguably the most consistent performer in the 2019 draft class.
"I think he's the best tackle in the country," former Alabama teammate Damien Harris said of Williams, per NFL Draft Bible's Ric Serritella. "He showed that for three years at Alabama, came in and started as a true freshman and he’s just a different breed of player. He's just a real complete player."
Williams' story is one of production versus projection. Too many automatically want to switch his position because he doesn't quite reach preferred length requirements and isn't considered an elite athlete.
Watch him play the position.
The two-time first-team All-SEC performer plays his angles exceptionally well, anchors, shows good hand placement and drives defenders off the ball in the run game. These skills matter far more than just physical traits, which is why Williams is a better prospect than Florida's Jawaan Taylor and Washington State's Andre Dillard.
Iowa State's Hakeem Butler Gets Drafted Before Ole Miss' D.K. Metcalf as Top WR
Hakeem Butler is exactly what teams want in a true No. 1 X-receiver. Physically, he's similar to future Hall of Fame wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Megatron was a better overall athlete, but Butler brings a similar presence to the position.
He actually worked with Johnson during the process, too.
The Iowa State receiver is an imposing target. The 6'5", 227-pound Butler has 35 1/4-inch arms and an 83 7/8-inch wingspan, per Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson. His catch radius is downright ridiculous, and this trait separates him as the class' top wideout prospect.
Ole Miss' D.K. Metcalf is a faster straight-line target with a better vertical jump, but he needs to throttle down a little more while going in and out of his breaks. The 22-year-old Butler is more fluid and proved himself the nation's best deep threat.
"A lot of coaches think 6'6", you're a little stiff, but I've got a little wiggle to me," he said, per the Detroit News' Justin Rogers. "I've got a little short guy to me in there somewhere and he comes out every now and then."
Cincinnati Bengals Will Draft Andy Dalton's Replacement
It's time for the Cincinnati Bengals to move on from quarterback Andy Dalton. The organization hasn't experienced any real success with him behind center, and two trigger points make it a logical move.
First, the team and Marvin Lewis parted ways after 16 seasons. New head coach Zac Taylor has no ties to the veteran quarterback. Second, Dalton's contract no longer contains any guaranteed money. The franchise can release or trade him today without incurring any financial penalties.
This opens the door to change, and the Bengals are taking advantage of the opportunity. The team scheduled a meeting with Duke's Daniel Jones, as the quarterback prospect revealed on SiriusXM NFL Radio. Taylor attended Ohio State's and Oklahoma's pro days, as well. Granted, both are pipeline programs with more to see than just a quarterback's throwing sessions.
But there seems to be more than a passing interest. Right now is the perfect time to make a move. The team can build around a new signal-caller under Taylor's tutelage and take the entire organization in a different and exciting direction.
Iowa's T.J. Hockenson Becomes First Top-10 TE Since Eric Ebron
Rob Gronkowski's retirement put the tight end position into perspective because no other individual currently in the league excels as a receiver and blocker like the future Hall of Fame inductee.
Iowa's T.J. Hockenson is often associated with Gronkowski as a draft comparison.
Plenty of tight ends create mismatches in the passing game. Very few double as even average blockers. According to Pro Football Focus, the reigning John Mackey Award winner graded among the top five in the class as a receiver and run-blocker.
Hockenson's complete skill set shouldn't overshadow the fact he's an outstanding natural athlete and scored in the 86th percentile among tight ends in SPARQ, according to Three Sigma Athlete's Zach Whitman.
Among top-10 teams in the draft, the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions both signed tight ends this offseason, which likely takes them out of the running for Hockenson. However, the Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 7 overall) and Denver Broncos (No. 10) both have significant needs at the position.
Michigan LB Devin Bush Won't Fall Past Green Bay Packers with 12th Pick
Michigan linebacker Devin Bush Jr. has heard he isn't good enough his entire life...from his father.
"I wanted him to feel like he wasn't good, so I made him play against older guys who were bigger, stronger, faster," Devin Bush Sr. told NFL.com's Jim Trotter. "That way the game wouldn't come as easy, or the things he was doing wouldn't come as easy."
Bush Jr. is only 5'11" and 234 pounds, and he doesn't fit traditional standards. His 4.43-second speed is rare for a linebacker, though. That quickness, coupled with outstanding instincts, makes him an elite prospect.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are a logical destination for fellow linebacker Devin White with the fifth overall pick. Once the LSU product is drafted, the Cincinnati Bengals (No. 11) and Green Bay Packers (No. 12) could both look to fill holes at linebacker. Green Bay, in particular, could place Bush next to Blake Martinez and form an impressive inside duo.
Miami Dolphins Embrace the Tank
The Miami Dolphins are hedging their bets as to how much they're rebuilding rather than outright tanking.
"There's no tanking," general manager Chris Grier said, per the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's Safid Deen.
Meanwhile, owner Stephen Ross admitted two or more years may be needed before the team becomes competitive, per ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe.
A rebuild is meant, at its core, to build up the roster and compete in the short term. To tank, a team must show a commitment to shedding unnecessary parts, placing the acquisition of draft and financial assets above winning games with a determination to strip it all down even if the league's worst record is the likely result.
If Miami doesn't select a quarterback early in the process to challenge veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, it's tanking. If the team trades down from the 13th overall pick, it's tanking. Those two tell-tale signs will determine whether the Dolphins really are trying to win in 2019.
Spoiler alert: They're not.
Washington OT Kaleb McGary Works His Way into 1st Round
Certain names don't pick up steam until late in the draft process. As the event draws near, those prospects become more associated with teams in the first round.
Washington's Kaleb McGary is on such a trajectory. The collegiate right tackle has private visits or workouts scheduled with 14 organizations, according to the Houston Chronicle's Aaron Wilson. Nine of those teams—the Washington Redskins, Carolina Panthers, New York Giants, Minnesota Vikings, Philadelphia Eagles, Indianapolis Colts, Los Angeles Chargers, Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots—own picks between 15th and 32nd overall.
The 6'7", 317-pound blocker is an excellent athlete who finished among the top 10 offensive linemen at the NFL Scouting Combine in the 40-yard dash (5.05 seconds), vertical jump (33.5 inches), broad jump (111 inches), 3-cone drill (7.66 seconds) and short shuttle (4.58 seconds). He has the physical profile to become the third or fourth offensive tackle off the board.
At Least 3 Interior Blockers Will Go in Opening Round
The offensive interior is the least glamorous position to draft in the first round even though the success rate is rather high.
Some of the league's best centers and guards—Alex Mack, Quenton Nelson, Maurkice Pouncey, David DeCastro, Zack Martin and Travis Frederick—came off the board before the opening frame ended.
Last year, three interior blockers—Nelson, Frank Ragnow and Billy Price—became first-round picks. This year, three should be the minimum.
Oklahoma's Cody Ford started last season at right tackle but played guard in prior campaigns. The 329-pound blocker is a physical tone-setter. Like Ford, Boston College's Chris Lindstrom played both guard and right tackle but is best suited for the interior.
North Carolina State's Garrett Bradbury (pictured) is the class' most complete center prospect. Kansas State's Dalton Risner and Texas A&M's Erik McCoy are fringe first-round talents, as well.
Mississippi DT Jeffery Simmons Will Be a 1st-Round Pick
Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons has injury problems and an assault charge in his past, but his talent dictates a potential top-10 selection.
The 6'4", 301-pound defender is a force along the defensive interior. According to Pro Football Focus, Simmons finished top-five overall last season among interior defenders in overall grade (92), run-stop percentage (11.8), run-defense grade (92.6) and pass-rush grade (89.7). The defensive tackle registered 74 defensive stops and 73 total quarterback pressures over the last two seasons.
But teams must reconcile two lingering issues.
First, in 2016 authorities charged a then-18-year-old Simmons with simple assault for striking a woman multiple times. He was found guilty of malicious mischief and pled no-contest to the assault charge and was required to pay fines and the woman's medical bills.
Second, he suffered a torn ACL in February while preparing for the draft and may not be available until the final quarter of the 2019 regular season.
Despite each of those problems, Simmons talent speaks for itself. A team in the back-end of the first round that doesn't require an immediate impact from a rookie will have an opportunity to make a significant long-term investment in a potential game-changer.
New England Patriots Will Draft Tom Brady's Successor
Quarterback is simultaneously not pressing and the single most important need for the New England Patriots.
Tom Brady will turn 42 years old in August, and the Patriots continue to rely on the aging superstar. Eventually, a succession plan is required. To be more accurate, a new succession plan is necessary after the Patriots traded away Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo, who could have been Brady's successors.
Right now, career journeyman Brian Hoyer serves as New England's backup quarterback with no long-term option on the roster.
The biggest obstacle is deciding whether the Patriots will use this year's 32nd overall pick to find Brady's heir apparent or wait until a little later in the process. Either way, the team can't go another season without grooming a young quarterback.
Duke's Daniel Jones and West Virginia's Will Grier are late first-round options. Otherwise, the team can look toward Buffalo's Tyree Jackson, North Carolina State's Ryan Finley or Auburn's Jarrett Stidham a little later in the process.
5 Quarterbacks Are Chosen in 1st Round
A year ago, five quarterbacks came off the board in the first round. This year's class may not be as strong from top to bottom, but five more signal-callers could again be selected in the opening frame.
Oklahoma's Kyler Murray and Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins are locks. Missouri's Drew Lock has all the tools NFL teams want. It's the final two options who some might question.
Duke's Daniel Jones has the mental preparation and physical tools (6'5", 221 lbs) to develop into a starter. After learning under David Cutcliffe, he should be as prepared as any quarterback. But the ACC standout was asked to do too much with an inferior supporting cast, which led to poor decisions and inaccuracy.
West Virginia's Will Grier (pictured) has been viewed as a second-day prospect throughout most of the predraft process. Yet he answered questions about arm strength at the combine and Mountaineers' pro day. His throwing sessions, mental preparedness and maturity are impressive. Grier has a shot to squeak into the back of the first round.
Quarterbacks don't last long if they're viewed as potential starters.
10 or More Defensive Linemen Will Hear Their Names Called in 1st Round
This year's draft class has been touted as "The Year of the Defensive Lineman."
Everything points to that being true. Ten defensive linemen haven't been drafted in the first round since 2011. The incoming group can set an NFL record if 11 are selected in the opening frame.
Ohio State's Nick Bosa (pictured), Alabama's Quinnen Williams, Michigan's Rashan Gary, Houston's Ed Oliver, Notre Dame's Jerry Tillery, Florida State's Brian Burns, Mississippi State's Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons and Clemson's Christian Wilkins, Clelin Ferrell and Dexter Lawrence all carry first-round grades.
The numbers would have been even higher if Florida's Jachai Polite and Ohio State's Dre'Mont Jones didn't test poorly, though Kentucky's Josh Allen could enter the equation if he's chosen by a squad that plans to use him as a defensive end.
Right now, Simmons' torn ACL and/or Lawrence's positional value might prevent a new record. Even so, the quality and depth found along the defensive line make the class truly special.
Fewer Than 7 1st-Round Trades Will Occur
Seven first-round draft-day trades occurred during last year's selection process. In total, half the draft's first-round picks changed hands at one point or another.
Some movement will almost certainly occur at or near the top of the upcoming draft, but the number of trades probably won't rise to the same level.
First, teams made moves to position themselves for last year's quarterback prospects well before the draft began. The New York Jets acquired the third overall pick a month-and-a-half ahead of time. The Buffalo Bills made a move into the first half of the first round on March 12.
With the draft only three weeks away, teams have yet to make similar deals.
These moves really come down to premium positions. Quarterback remains at the forefront, of course. But the New Orleans Saints traded up last year to acquire Marcus Davenport in a weak edge class. This year's defensive group is loaded. Cornerback and left tackle are both projected to have options available well into the later stages of the first round.
Teams won't panic to find quality prospects at much-needed positions.
No Running Backs Will Be Selected in 1st Round
Save the running back class, Alabama's Josh Jacobs. You're its only hope.
Unfortunately, the chance of a prospect disproving the position's devaluation with a first-round selection lessened upon Jacobs' disappointing pro-day performance.
The Crimson Tide runner did improve his 40-yard-dash time at Alabama's second day (4.56 to 4.52), according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Even so, Jacobs fits into the 19th percentile among running backs in SPARQ, according to Three Sigma Athlete's Zach Whitman.
A poor SPARQ rating isn't an automatic disqualifier for the position. After all, neither Leonard Fournette nor Dalvin Cook scored well, and they've been effective NFL runners when healthy.
Jacobs isn't viewed as a slam-dunk first-round running back, though. His power and short-area elusiveness are impressive, but teams interested in his services at the back end of the first round are limited.
The Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles were the most logical pairings, but they acquired Mark Ingram and Jordan Howard, respectively. The Oakland Raiders may be the only remaining first-round option.
Massive Run of Wide Receivers Will Occur in 2nd Round
While the first-round mix of wide receivers remains muddled, the second round should provide a cornucopia of talent for teams in need of targets.
Generally speaking, Ole Miss' D.K. Metcalf and Iowa State's Hakeem Butler present legit first-round traits. Ohio State's Parris Campbell, Oklahoma's Marquise Brown and Arizona State's N'Keal Harry remain in the first-round conversation even though each has a question mark that could push him into the second frame.
Beyond that, eight different wide receivers have second-round potential. North Carolina State's Kelvin Harmon (pictured), Ole Miss' A.J. Brown, South Carolina's Deebo Samuel, Missouri's Emanuel Hall, Stanford's J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Georgia's Riley Ridley, UMass' Andy Isabella and Ohio State's Terry McLaurin are all in the mix.
Depending on what happens to Campbell, Marquise Brown and Harry, 10 or more different receivers could be selected at the start of the draft's second day.
Wide receiver might not be a top-heavy class, but it's deep.
Alabama State OT Tytus Howard Will Be Top Non-FBS Draftee
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Darius Leonard created a massive impact as the league's leading tackler and NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year after being the first non-FBS prospect drafted in the 2018 class.
Another prospect from the lower ranks of college football is unlikely to replicate Leonard's success or even be drafted as high in the process (36th overall). However, a team or two will almost certainly select a prospect from the FCS level before the second round comes to an end.
Delaware safety Nasir Adderley is generally regarded as the top FCS prospect, but the safety position is deep. Offensive tackle is far more valuable, which will likely drive Alabama State's Tytus Howard up draft boards.
The 6'5", 322-pound Howard was a high school quarterback before he walked on with the Hornets program. He then converted to tight end until his coaches coaxed him to play offensive line. He's still developing, but he displayed starting left tackle traits that could make him a top-50 selection.
Florida DE Jachai Polite Plummets to Draft's 3rd Day
Usually, the predraft process is an opportunity to confirm what NFL talent evaluators already saw during on-field performances. The process isn't meant to completely rewrite a player's draft standing. It still happens, though.
Jachai Polite's fall from grace as a potential first-round pick to a possible Day 3 selection has been nothing short of cringe-worthy.
During the season, the Florida edge-rusher generated 41 total pressures and a 20.4 pass-rush productivity rating last season, according to Pro Football Focus. Then he butchered his draft preparation.
First, the 6'3", 258-pound defender admitted he "wasn't ready mentally" for combine interviews, per ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco. He subsequently tweaked a hamstring while running a dismal 4.84-second 40-yard dash and couldn't complete his combine workout.
At Florida's pro day, Polite looked out of shape and reaggravated the hamstring injury.
Eventually, a team will take a chance on Polite's talent and hope its coaches can get the most out of him. But a third-day investment is usually when organizations are willing to take those leaps of faith.
Cleveland Browns Will Trade RB Duke Johnson Jr. During Draft
General manager John Dorsey's impressive revamp of the Cleveland Browns roster isn't complete.
The Browns still own eight draft picks after they traded the 17th overall selection (and safety Jabrill Peppers) for superstar wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. Backup running back Duke Johnson Jr., who leads all running backs with 2,170 receiving yards since the start of the 2015 campaign, is also available after the team signed Kareem Hunt.
According to Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot, Johnson's representation asked the Browns to trade the running back. The 25-year-old didn't report to this week's voluntary team workouts, per Uproxx's Jordan Zirm.
While Hunt's upcoming eight-game suspension is a reason to keep Johnson for now, the Browns don't have a first-round pick and could leverage him and their second-round selection (49th overall) to move up. The chance to obtain a preferred defensive back or linebacker is reason enough to include the receiving back in a draft-day trade.
40 or More Underclassmen Will Go Undrafted
The NFL draft is great drama because viewers get to see young men's dreams realized on a national stage. The event's best moments come when those players finally hear their names called and celebrate with their loved ones.
Unfortunately, the flip side can be devastating.
According to ESPN NFL draft analyst Todd McShay, a five-year study showed more than 30 percent of underclassmen—who declared despite remaining years of college eligibility—go undrafted. Last year, 37 underclassmen (34.9 percent of those who declared) didn't hear their names called.
A record 135 underclassmen declared for this year's draft. Using the 30 percent threshold, 40 early entrants won't be drafted.
The draft is only the start of these players' careers; it's not the end. Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay proved how valuable an undrafted free agent can be, even as a rookie. The initial disappointment of going undrafted doesn't have to define a football player's future.