5 NFL Draft Picks Who Would Be Huge Round 1 Mistakes
Before you lock a prospect projection into the first round of the 2019 NFL draft, let's consider what makes players surefire top-32 picks.
Typically, front-office executives want to see immediate production from their Day 1 acquisitions, especially clubs with a selection in the top half of the opening round. There are exceptions for quarterbacks, who may sit a year behind an established veteran, but they're expected to become the leader in the huddle at some point.
In a long-term view, first-rounders should translate to starters with All-Pro or Pro Bowl potential.
Despite the intention to land a cornerstone asset within the top 32 picks, the draft is an inexact science. However, unimpressive collegiate resumes, injuries and poor on-field traits can serve as red flags for talents on the fringe of first-round consideration. Some teams heed those warning signs, while others choose to roll the dice based on their research and a high-reward factor.
There are a handful of prospects who could hear their names called Thursday with significant concerns that warrant some caution. We'll take a look at five potential regrettable first-round picks.
QB Daniel Jones, Duke
When you look at quarterback Daniel Jones' collegiate film, his athleticism jumps off the screen. He can escape pressure, extend plays and give his receivers a chance to make a play if they come back to the ball. The Duke product also ran for 1,323 yards and 17 touchdowns in three seasons.
Aside from his ability to move in the pocket and evade trouble, Jones' production falls short of first-round quality. Last year, Duke's pass-catchers dropped passes, but the three-year starter's inaccuracies contributed to his 60.5 percent completion rate.
The Athletic's Samuel Gold highlighted multiple instances in which Jones overthrew his receivers. There's a common theme in the Duke signal-caller's game: He's able to pinpoint throws in the short-to-intermediate passing attack but shows some inconsistencies with the deep ball and hesitation to fire passes through small windows. In the NFL, that sounds like a game manager.
Jones doesn't have a standout campaign that gives teams a glimpse of his absolute best, which raises some concerns for a top-32 pick. He needs more development to help long-ball accuracy and build confidence in his split decisions.
RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama
In today's NFL, "running back by committee" seems like the norm. Fourteen ball-carriers with at least 100 carries averaged 15 rush attempts per contest—only Dallas Cowboys tailback Ezekiel Elliott logged 20 per game. Furthermore, five of the top 10 rushers in yards were selected after the first round in their respective draft classes.
As teams opt to use multiple running backs to move the ball on the ground, there's one fewer reason to use a premium pick on a player who's sharing a starting role. Unless there's a unique talent who can carry the backfield week to week, teams don't have to rush the podium to take a tailback with their first-round pick.
In all three years on the collegiate level, Josh Jacobs shared the workload with at least two ball-carriers who logged a minimum of 100 carries through the term. He never led the Crimson Tide's backfield in rush attempts or yards. The physical tailback finished his career at Alabama with 251 rush attempts for 1,491 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Jacobs possesses the ability to catch out of the backfield, logging 48 receptions for 571 yards and five scores, with the body frame (5'10", 220 lbs) to pick up blitzes in the backfield. Nevertheless, his primary role as a ball-carrier yields a limited sample size. He's an unproven lead running back and doesn't have the speed to break away from defenders after the catch.
WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma
According to Bleacher Report's Matt Miller, there's a belief Brown is a near-lock to come off the board in the opening round. "The expectation, after speaking to multiple scouts and executives, is that one (Marquise Brown) is a surefire first-rounder with one or two others (D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown) possibly going in the top 32," he wrote.
Despite the optimistic review on Brown's foot injury and the projections around the league, teams should have some performance doubts about a speedy wideout recovering from a foot ailment. At 5'9", 166 pounds, the Oklahoma product isn't going to win one-on-one matchups using physical strength and hand fighting to break free on his routes. He's going to need a quick release off the line of scrimmage and good footwork to separate downfield.
It's one thing to show movement and flexibility in a medical examination, but it's fair to question Brown's ability to make sharp cuts on the field and reach a second gear in speed fresh off an injury. How quickly will he regain those capabilities, and is it sustainable following his surgery?
For a player who uses speed to stretch the field with a slight frame, a foot injury ought to cause front-office executives to pump the brakes on taking Brown in the first round of a draft class with other high-end options at the position. Andy Isabella, another big-play wideout out of Massachusetts, and A.J. Brown from Ole Miss are coming into the draft healthy as more versatile inside-out options.
DL Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State
At 6'4", 301 pounds, Jeffery Simmons isn't just a big body in the trenches; he can penetrate with consistency. The Mississippi State product logged 30 tackles for a loss and seven sacks over the last two seasons.
The plethora of options among defensive line prospects doesn't bode well for a player recovering from a significant injury. In February, Simmons suffered a torn ACL and minor meniscus tear, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. He's expected to miss the entire 2019 campaign.
The club that draft Simmons will have to hope he returns to pre-injury form after a year-and-a-half away from football. Although players often come back from ACL tears to continue productive careers, it's still an unpredictable scenario.
Simmons would begin the 2020 campaign as a first-year talent learning the professional game. On top of that, a knee injury could derail or shorten a 300-plus-pounder's career.
Initially, league executives expected Simmons to fall out of first-round consideration, per NFL.com's Lance Zierlein. If that prediction becomes reality, it shouldn't come as a surprise within a position group loaded with talent.
In a draft class with Quinnen Williams, Ed Oliver, Christian Wilkins, Dre'Mont Jones and Jerry Tillery, clubs can afford to wait until the second round for an interior defensive lineman set to hit the field in 2020.
S Deionte Thompson, Alabama
Deionte Thompson comes out of a powerhouse program known for developing NFL-ready players, but the safety's resume doesn't match up to a bonafide first-round grade.
In Matt Miller's safety rankings, Thompson placed third of 29. Miller wrote in part: "One-year starter who needs reps and experience in coverage. Clemson notably went at him in the national title game, and he was exposed on several plays."
Thompson's slight body frame has become a topic of discussion in the predraft process. One NFC executive pointed to a specific game that caused some apprehension, per Lance Zierlein. "Go watch the Ole Miss game. There is a play where he runs up and has a big collision in the middle of the field but causes a fumble," the executive said. "I'm worried about him surviving those kinds of hits and staying healthy. He's just so slender."
He's 6'1", 195 pounds and may need a year in an NFL weight room to handle the workload on the professional level.
Because of his size, teams will likely keep Thompson away from scrums on the strong side of the formation closer to the line of scrimmage. He's best suited to play center field in the secondary, but the Alabama product only snagged two interceptions and broke up six passes in a full-time starting role last year.
Thompson also underwent wrist surgery in February, per Ian Rapoport. Questions about durability and average production should encourage teams to wait to see if he drops into the second round. The slender safety may need to add bulk and gain experience through a rough couple of years before he becomes an impact player.
Teams would prefer first-round prospects with a body that's ready to handle the physical nature of the game and high-level collegiate production. Thompson doesn't check either box.