The Biggest Game-Changers in the 2019 NFL Draft Class

Chris Roling@@Chris_RolingFeatured ColumnistApril 19, 2019

The Biggest Game-Changers in the 2019 NFL Draft Class

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    The 2019 NFL draft is loaded with game-changing prospects, much like last year's class was. 

    A year ago, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield stumped defenses with his mobility and arm once he made his NFL debut. Quarterback Lamar Jackson lifted the Baltimore Ravens to the playoffs with his rushing acumen. New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley caused defenders to miss as often as he bulldozed over them. Los Angeles Chargers safety Derwin James bewildered quarterbacks and offensive coaches with his playmaking ability. 

    This 2019 class should be similar in many ways. It features a passer with incredible mobility to stress defenders. Uber-athletic weapons should open up offenses and create mismatches. Shockingly explosive pass-rushers should keep even calm-and-collected veterans like Tom Brady up at night before games. 

    The natural blend of talent, athleticism and upside make the following prospects the biggest game-changing players of this year's draft class.  

Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

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    The Arizona Cardinals traded up to select former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen with the 10th overall pick last year, but they're rumored to be interested in spending this year's first overall pick on Kyler Murray.

    It isn't hard to see why.

    During his lone season as starter at Oklahoma, Murray completed 69.0 percent of his passes for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He added 140 rushes for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns en route to the Heisman Trophy. 

    Murray wasn't beating up on bad competition and drumming up his stats. NFL.com's Lance Zierlein compared him to Russell Wilson, while NFL Network's Bucky Brooks suggested he has more potential than even Patrick Mahomes or Baker Mayfield. 

    Like Mayfield, Murray will need the right offensive system and coaching staff to squeeze the most out of his talent. But he's wizard-esque with his manipulation of defenders while running and extending plays, has one of the better arms in the class, has good throwing mechanics and hasn't blinked on the biggest stages. 

    Murray's game-breaking skills put him in position to have the biggest impact from the 2019 class right out of the gates and for a long time. 

D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    D.K. Metcalf has shown time and again he can single-handedly dominate a game. 

    Considering the 6'3", 228-pound receiver ran the 40-yard dash in 4.33 posted a 40.5" vertical jump at the NFL Scouting Combine, that shouldn't come as a surprise.

    Metcalf put that athleticism to work at Ole Miss, catching 39 passes for 646 yards and seven scores while averaging 16.6 yards per reception in 2017. He followed up with 26 catches for 569 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 21.9 yards per reception last season. 

    While he's far from a high-volume target, Metcalf regularly broke games open and commanded the respect of defenses on every snap. His agility numbers underwhelmed at the combine—from his 4.5-second short shuttle to his 7.38-second three-cone drillbut his athletic gifts should allow him to dominate no matter where he ends up. 

    For now, Pro Football Focus considers Metcalf one-dimensional:

    "Metcalf annihilated defenses when he was targeted on either a go, back-shoulder or end-zone fade route, generating an elite receiving grade and 11 explosive plays. On all other routes, however, he recorded a 60.8 receiving grade."

    Early on in his NFL career, Metcalf will make his biggest impact on those types of routes. If he rounds out the rest of his game, he could become one of the league's most overpowering receivers in due time.

Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Few wideouts were faster than Ohio State's Parris Campbell at the combine. 

    While straight-line speed doesn't always correlate to NFL success, it's hard not to be impressed with Campbell's 4.31-second 40-yard dash. 

    That speed certainly flashed on film. In 2017, Campbell caught 40 passes for 584 yards and three scores while averaging 14.6 yards per catch. This past season, he hauled in 90 catches for 1,063 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging 11.8 yards per catch. 

    Campbell can do a little bit of everything, and he smoothed over concerns about his deep ability by tracking the ball well at the combine.

    Bleacher Report's Matt Miller made a notable comparison:

    "I am not saying Campbell is Tyreek Hill, but that's the type of role I'd want for him Year 1. [Andy] Reid and the Chiefs did a great job getting Hill touches as a receiver, returner and even runner. Kind of like how Percy Harvin was early on, too."

    Campbell is dangerous with the ball in his hands. The right scheme and usage will help. But as he has consistently shown, he can break games open if he finds a bit of open space.

Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    A 21-year-old tight end with 18 touchdowns on only 69 catches over his past two seasons? 

    That's one way to get a quarterback's attention. 

    With all due respect to his former Iowa teammate T.J. Hockensen, Noah Fant is the most dangerous tight end in this year's draft class. Given his efficiency numbers and frame (6'4", 249 pounds), he seems ready to create mismatches all over the field for whichever team selects him.

    Detractors will point to Fant's minimal number of catches or his weakness as a blocker, but the greater context is important. While Iowa's so-so offense stumbled despite having him and Hockensen, Fant produced a 131.2 passer rating when targeted, according to Pro Football Focus

    Fant is deployable in any offense, and his efficiency speaks for itself. Even if he ends up restricted to red-zone and chain-moving looks as a rookie, he could end up having a huge impact thanks to his natural gifts. 

Nick Bosa, DL, Ohio State

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Nick Bosa is a transcendent prospect capable of wrecking an opposing offense's game plan on his own. 

    Those sorts of players don't come around often.

    Although Bosa missed most of the 2018 season with a core injury, he remains in the conversation for the draft's first overall pick. 

    Bucky Brooks of NFL.com listed Bosa as one of his six "gold jacket" prospects, writing: 

    "Bosa is a refined pass-rusher with a unique combination of speed, quickness and power that overwhelms blockers at the point of attack. Moreover, he displays a variety of hand-to-hand combat maneuvers that look like they were pulled directly from a clinic tape."

    With prototypical size at 6'4" and 266 pounds, Bosa is all but certain to come off the board in the first few picks. His high motor, versatility and array of pro-ready moves almost guarantees production as a rookie, and pro coaches getting their hands on him will only push him closer to his lofty ceiling. 

Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    If Josh Allen wasn't in the same class as Nick Bosa and Kyler Murray, he might be in the conversation for the No. 1 overall pick.

    Allen has the ideal size (6'5", 262 pounds) and measurables to succeed in the NFL. During combine drills, he showed a bit of everything from speed (4.63-second 40-yard dash) to power (28 reps on the bench press). 

    He also tallied 17 sacks last season alone, along with 57 total quarterback pressures, per PFF

    Allen looks like a capable floater who can bounce between getting after quarterbacks and covering their targets. His size and speed means the latter should keep coming naturally like it did in the SEC, but pass rushing will likely continue to be his strength.

    Down the road, it wouldn't be a shock if Allen ends up as the most disruptive player from the class. 

Ed Oliver, DL, Houston

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    Michael Wyke/Associated Press

    Aaron Donald and Geno Atkins occupy rarified air in the NFL for a reason. 

    Houston's Ed Oliver could soon join them. 

    Oliver is a 6'2", 287-pound prospect in the same mold as Donald and Atkins. He punctures pockets from the interior in a way most teams can only accomplish by sending extra players on a blitz. 

    That combination of skills and production made NFL.com's Gil Brandt rank him as the fourth-best player in this year's draft class: 

    "An undersized (6'1⅞", 287 pounds) three-year player with exceptional quickness and change of direction, Oliver is strong (32 lifts) and athletic (he posted a 36-inch vertical jump and 10-foot broad jump). Though not as powerful as Rams star Aaron Donald, he is a very good player and will be a disruptive force."

    Oliver's ability to disrupt a passing game from an unorthodox position is still rare in today's NFL, but it could serve as a potent counter for the team lucky enough to draft him. His ability to influence games should be felt from day one.