B/R Expert Predictions for 2019 NFL Draft
The big day is here—almost.
On Thursday night in Nashville, Tennessee, the 2019 NFL draft will commence. Commissioner Roger Goodell will step to the podium, the building will erupt in boos, Goodell will get things underway and then the Arizona Cardinals will be on the clock. From then through Saturday, 254 picks will be made—culminating when those same Cardinals pick this year's Mr. Irrelevant.
It will no doubt be an exciting weekend filled with surprises. And as the 2019 draft nears, the NFL writers here at Bleacher Report have gathered to attempt to predict just how things will play out, from the first player to hear his name called to the biggest trade of the weekend.
Who knows? We may even be right once or twice.
Note: The writers who participated in this panel are NFL Analyst Gary Davenport, NFL Features Lead Writer Tyler Dunne, NFL National Lead Writer Mike Freeman, NFL Analyst Brad Gagnon, NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller, NFL Analyst Brent Sobleski and NFL National Lead Writer Mike Tanier.
No. 1 Overall Pick
Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma (6 votes)
For weeks we've seemingly been on a collision course where Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals are concerned. New Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury has been a fan of Murray's for years, having tried to recruit him while serving as Texas Tech's head coach.
Per ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss, former Texas Tech offensive analyst Marcus White pointed out just how many dominos had to fall for Kingsbury to get this second bite at the Murray apple:
"I don't want to use the term 'destined,' but it's almost in that respect. With the comments that Kliff made about if he had the No. 1 overall pick—'He's taking Kyler'—you couldn't even see this.
"The Cards had to come in last place, Kyler had to be the Heisman Trophy guy this year and Kliff had to get the job and now, all of a sudden, it's like, 'Holy crap, he eluded me in high school and now it's all on me right now. That was your decision and now this is my decision.'"
Some believe this foregone conclusion is anything but—B/R's Brad Gagnon slotted Ohio State edge-rusher Nick Bosa at No. 1 overall, and Pete Prisco of CBS Sports reported recently he's hearing the Cardinals will pass on Murray.
But the overwhelming majority of the writers here at Bleacher Report think the Josh Rosen era in the desert is over—and that Kingsbury will finally get the QB he's coveted for so long.
Others receiving votes: Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State (1 vote)
Steal of the Draft
Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State (2 votes)
Get ready for a running theme in this article, folks—votes that are all over the danged place. It's hardly surprising—with over 250 players about to be drafted, there are a lot of potential options for categories like the biggest steal of the 2019 NFL draft.
Were it not for a fateful day in February, the only youngster to receive multiple votes in this category all but certainly wouldn't have been chosen here. Because after he racked up 63 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and two sacks at Mississippi State in 2018, defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons all but certainly would have come off the board in the front half of the first round.
However, while training for this year's scouting combine, Simmons tore his left ACL. Just like that, his draft stock tumbled.
That unfortunate incident could wind up a blessing in disguise for some NFL team. After all, we're talking about an athletic 6'4", 301-pound 3-technique Lance Zierlein of NFL.com called an "impressive physical specimen offering rare combination of strength and athleticism for future dominance in a variety of defensive schemes."
Getting a player of that caliber late in Round 1 or early on Day 2 is a gift—even if can't be opened until 2020.
Others receiving votes: J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford (1 vote); Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State (1 vote); Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State (1 vote); David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State (1 vote); Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame (1 vote)
Biggest 1st-Round Risk
Daniel Jones, QB, Duke (4 votes)
This prediction may rate a double-take or two—as the NFL draft nears, Duke quarterback Daniel Jones' stock is rising steadily. In his latest mock draft, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com slotted the 6'5", 221-pound Jones at No. 6 to the New York Giants. And per Ryan Dunleavy of NJ.com, Hall of Fame talent evaluator Gil Brandt recently paid Jones quite the compliment.
"I. Love. Dan Jones," Brandt said. "I have to say this carefully: When you watch him and you go back (20) years and watch Peyton Manning, you are watching the same guy. He's athletic. He doesn't have a rocket for an arm, but neither did Peyton. Very smart."
However, there were more than a few grumbles from our panelists that taking Jones in Round 1 could be a mistake.
Maybe it's that Jones never passed for 3,000 yards in a season and his 2018 numbers were inflated by a terrible ACC in which 10 of 14 teams allowed more than 25 points per game. Even then, Jones averaged just 6.8 yards per attempt, and against Clemson and Miami he averaged 3.7.
Maybe it's that while Jones is a smart, well-coached prospect, he doesn't have the arm talent of Haskins or Drew Lock or the athleticism of Murray.
Jones may not be the bust risk that Lock is, but "low ceiling" is a hard term to get excited about when it's used to describe a first-round selection.
Others receiving votes: Rashan Gary, EDGE, Michigan (1 vote); Will Grier, QB, West Virginia (1 vote); D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss (1 vote)
Best Player-Team Fit
OT Andre Dillard—Houston Texans (2 votes)
There are plenty of players who are good fits with particular teams in this draft. Just about any of this year's top edge-rushers are an excellent fit for the Oakland Raiders, who managed just 13 sacks in 2018. Ditto for those same pass-rushers and the New York Jets.
Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson is one of the more NFL-ready prospects we've seen at his position in recent years—as adept at blocking in the run game as he is reeling in passes. Hockenson was one of two players who received multiple votes in this category, and the fact that those votes came with two different teams is a compliment to his skill set.
But it only takes one number to understand why the other multiple-vote-getter is such a good fit with the Houston Texans.
That's how many sacks Houston allowed in its march to the AFC South title last year—easily the most in the league. Letting quarterback Deshaun Watson continue taking that kind of punishment is—let's go with unwise.
There's no tackle prospect who stands head and shoulders above the rest this year, but Washington State's Andre Dillard is a legit first-round prospect—a 6'5", 315-pounder who may be the best pass protector in the class.
If Dillard's on the board when Houston picks at No. 23, then the team would be fools to pass on him.
Others receiving votes: SS Johnathan Abram—Indianapolis Colts (1 vote); EDGE Nick Bosa—New York Jets (1 vote); QB Dwayne Haskins—New York Giants (1 vote); TE T.J. Hockenson—Green Bay Packers (1 vote); TE T.J. Hockenson—Jacksonville Jaguars (1 vote)
Worst Player-Team Fit
QB Kyler Murray—Arizona Cardinals (2 votes)
In news that should surprise approximately no one, quarterback-related talk has dominated the lead-up to the draft.
But given that six of the seven votes cast in the "worst fit" category involved the position, that might be more harbinger of doom than sign of good times ahead.
There were three different teams that were singled out as poor landing spots for the QB class of 2019—including one (the Denver Broncos) that many pundits expect to address the position early this year.
This was another category where just one player got multiple votes—and it happened to be the panel's prediction for the No. 1 overall pick.
B/R's Gary Davenport is one of the two writers who feels Murray isn't such a hot pairing with Arizona:
"My reticence regarding Murray in the desert has less to do with the player than it does with the team. While plenty of people like to talk about Kliff Kingsbury recruiting Murray in college, the fact that Kingsbury didn't win half his games at Texas Tech gets glossed over. It's anything but a foregone conclusion that Kingsbury's offense will work at the NFL level, and the Redbirds were near the top of the league in sacks allowed in 2018. Murray may be talented, but he's not a miracle worker. And he could well be set up to fail in the desert."
Others receiving votes: Any QB—Denver Broncos (1 vote); Any QB—Green Bay Packers (1 vote); Any QB—Oakland Raiders (1 vote); QB Daniel Jones—New York Giants (1 vote), OT Jawaan Taylor—Carolina Panthers (1 vote)
Where Will Josh Rosen Be After the Draft?
Washington Redskins (3 votes)
There's little doubt that if Murray is the first overall pick, then Rosen's tenure with the Cardinals will end right about the same time. The Cardinals won't keep two young first-round quarterbacks on the roster.
The question then becomes where they'll ship Rosen—and what they can get for him. It's long been believed that the Redbirds would like to get a first-rounder for last year's 10th overall pick. But it's also been widely thought that was unlikely.
However, in a recent piece at ESPN.com, Bill Barnwell posited a trade that would net the Cardinals the pick they seek: Rosen and the 33rd selection to Washington for Case Keenum and the 15th pick. He wrote:
"The most logical landing spot for Rosen is Washington, given that Jay Gruden's team doesn't have a quarterback of the future behind Alex Smith, who might never play again. Arizona wants to come away with a first-round pick for its second-year passer, but I don't think it has a great shot of getting one straight up unless it's the 32nd pick from the Patriots. The Cardinals also get a veteran backup for Kyler Murray in Keenum, who once played under Kingsbury in Houston."
The deal makes sense for both sides. If the Cardinals are intent on swapping Murray for Rosen, they'd be well-advised to make the trade soon—their bargaining position weakens every minute Murray and Rosen are both on the team.
Others receiving votes: Miami Dolphins (2 votes); Arizona Cardinals (1 vote); Los Angeles Chargers (1 vote)
Biggest Draft Riser
Ed Oliver, DT, Houston (2 votes)
There have been plenty of players who have used the opportunities provided by the Senior Bowl, scouting combine and pro days to boost their stock.
Many of those players got a vote here. But—and stop me if you've heard this before—only one player received two.
Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver entered draft season the prisoner of a couple of unfortunate circumstances. The first is a ridiculously deep crop of defensive line talent. The second was modest sack production (13.5 in 32 games) in college.
That latter number had as much to do with how Oliver was used as the player himself—he often lined up as the nose tackle in Houston's 3-4, which is a waste of his talent.
However, Oliver's made full use of draft season to show off his otherworldly athleticism and distance himself from the pack a bit. At the Cougars' pro day, Oliver peeled off a jaw-dropping 4.13-second time in the short shuttle—faster than Le'Veon Bell ran at the combine by over a tenth of a second.
Just a friendly reminder: Oliver is a 287-pound defensive tackle.
If there was any doubt Oliver would be a top-10 pick, it's gone—and the top five isn't out of the question.
Others receiving votes: Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State (1 vote); Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State (1 vote); Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State (1 vote); Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State (1 vote); Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia (1 vote)
Biggest Draft Slider
Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State (3 votes)
This category is an outlier, in that just three players garnered votes as the biggest draft-day slider. All three were defensive linemen—talented defensive linemen.
Clemson's Clelin Ferrell was the Ted Hendricks Award winner in 2018 as college football's top defensive end after he topped 50 tackles with 19.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks. But in a wildly deep class at his position, Ferrell's closer to his ceiling than some of the other options.
Ferrell's teammate Dexter Lawrence was a first-team all-ACC performer in 2018. But the massive 342-pound nose tackle was suspended for Clemson's playoff games last year after he failed a performance-enhancing drug test, and he plays the 1-technique—which generally isn't considered a high priority on draft day.
The "winner" here is another defensive end—one who wouldn't have made it out of the top 15 a few weeks ago. But that was before it was revealed that Mississippi State's Montez Sweat has a heart condition that has caused multiple NFL teams (per B/R's Dam Pompei) to remove Sweat from their draft boards altogether.
In 2018, a similar condition caused Michigan's Maurice Hurst to plummet from potential first-rounder to Day 3 pick. Sweat's condition isn't believed to be as serious, but the edge-rusher who ran a blazing 4.41 40 in Indy is in real danger of sliding into Day 2—at least.
Others receiving votes: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson (2 votes); Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson (2 votes)
Day 3 Gem
Jalen Hurd, WR, Baylor (2 votes)
That's more like it. All that agreement was—unsettling.
It's no surprise that the votes for Day 3 gem are spread out—by the time we get to Saturday, the so-called sure things will be long gone. Rounds 4-7 are about taking fliers. Rolling the dice on athleticism and potential.
Baylor wide receiver Jalen Hurd has both in spades.
A 6'5" converted running back with 4.47 speed, Hurd piled up over 2,000 yards rushing in his first two seasons at Tennessee before he decided both to convert to wide receiver and transfer to Baylor. Per Bleacher Report's Matt Hayes, Hurd made the move with the NFL in mind.
"I didn't just do this on a whim. I researched it," Hurd said. "Running backs last 3.5 years in the NFL. Wide receivers can last 10 or more years. Receivers are more valued than running backs in the NFL, and I can play this game a lot longer and can be more valuable as a receiver. It's not just a position and career change, it's a life change."
Hurd caught 69 passes for 946 yards and four scores in 2018, chipping in another 209 yards and three touchdowns on the ground on his way to being named the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year.
He's far from a finished product as a receiver, but his size/speed combo and versatility are the sort of thing that gets the attention on NFL clubs.
Others receiving votes: Lamont Gaillard, C, Georgia (1 vote); Anthony Johnson, WR, Buffalo (1 vote); Bryce Love, RB, Stanford (1 vote); Foster Moreau, TE, LSU (1 vote); Daniel Wise, DT, Kansas (1 vote)
Most Well-Known NFL Player Traded on Draft Weekend
Gerald McCoy, DT, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2 votes)
Credit where it's due: B/R NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller's original prediction in this category was Frank Clark, who the Seattle Seahawks traded to the Kansas City Chiefs on Tuesday.
If Jadeveon Clowney gets moved, you know who to ask about Mega Millions numbers.
Draft weekend trades are an annual NFL rite of passage. More and more often of late, we've seen veteran players involved in such deals—often in glorified salary dumps.
There are plenty of proposed deals that garnered votes that would raise eyebrows across the NFL. Tailback LeSean McCoy is arguably the best offensive player the Buffalo Bills have. If the Raiders dealt quarterback Derek Carr, it would set off an even bigger franchise reset than the team's undergoing.
But only one player (yet again) tallied multiple votes—and it's easy to see why.
There was a time when Tampa's Gerald McCoy was one of the NFL's better 3-tech defensive tackles. McCoy was named to the Pro Bowl six straight years from 2012 to 2017. However, the 31-year-old has also missed time in each of the last five seasons, and McCoy's 28 total tackles last year were his fewest since 2011.
McCoy is owed a hefty $13 million in 2019—but none of that is guaranteed. Simply put, the Buccaneers can't afford to pay the veteran that much for declining production. The reality is that if Tampa can't find a trading partner, McCoy will probably be released.
But that also means it won't take much to obtain McCoy, making him a low-risk (albeit expensive) investment.
Others receiving votes: Derek Carr, QB, Oakland Raiders (1 vote); Jadeveon Clowney,EDGE, Houston Texans (1 vote); Chris Harris Jr., CB, Denver Broncos (1 vote); LeSean McCoy, RB, Buffalo Bills (1 vote); Solomon Thomas, DE, San Francisco 49ers (1 vote)