The NFL draft has become big business. It's must-see television rivaled only by a good season of The Bachelor in terms of the best reality programming every year. Millions of fans watch to see where their favorite players will be drafted and who their favorite teams will draft. They learn the stories of the players now part of their team, but what about the stories we aren't told on our phones, tablets and televisions?
They follow the biggest storylines as they play out, but they don't see the machinations that lead to those cleanly packaged pick announcements, on-stage embraces and trade announcements. Based on dozens of conversations with NFL executives and coaches in the days leading up to the draft, during and in the days that followed, Scouting Notebook has a look behind the scenes at a few of draft week's most-discussed developments.
The Giants Panicked
Talking with sources, it was apparent general manager Dave Gettleman wanted to control this draft process and limit knowledge of his draft plans because the Giants had become notorious for leaks in the previous regime.
The Giants instead leaked to multiple media members various plans for the 2019 first round once the team owned picks Nos. 6 and 17 overall. Some reports had them loving Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins, while others would point to a desire to add defenders with the two first-round picks. In the end, it was all wrong, as Gettleman kept his love for Duke's Daniel Jones relatively quiet before the week of the draft.
Jones, at No. 6 overall, was considered the most controversial selection in Round 1 after talking to various league sources in the draft's aftermath. And many believe the Giants panicked into thinking Jones had to be the selection at No. 6.
"There is no way he was going anywhere else in the top 17 picks," said one plugged-in executive for an AFC team. "We run mock drafts and run through the scenarios and I hadn't heard of one team that wanted Jones other than them."
Gettleman, believing that he had to get his quarterback with the pick at No. 6, refused to gamble and instead missed out on the premium pass-rushers in the 2019 class. The Giants were left with defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence on the board—a player who profiles very closely to a lineman the team already has in Dalvin Tomlinson.
What should they have done?
"The smart move is draft a pass-rusher [at No. 6] and then try to trade back up for the quarterback if you have to, but I still don't think they would have had to," said the same executive.
Many in the media reported that Jones was the top or at least second quarterback on many draft boards, but both before and after the draft, of roughly the quarter of the league teams I polled, I couldn't find any team other than the Giants who had Jones ranked in the top two passers.
The Cardinals Misplayed Their Hand
Everyone in the football world knew the Arizona Cardinals planned to draft quarterback Kyler Murray at No. 1 overall and then trade Josh Rosen once Murray opted to play football. But somehow general manager Steve Keim failed to shop his existing quarterback before drafting the new one.
In conversations with teams that were interested in adding Rosen, two executives who were involved in making calls to the Cardinals pointed out something MMQB's Robert Klemko reported: that the Cardinals weren't proactive in figuring out what the market was, and that some teams that otherwise would have been interested said they didn't get a call until after Murray was drafted.
"I can't think of anyone who could have played this worse," said one of the executives. "EVERYONE knew they were taking Murray and you're drafting first overall. You have nothing to hide from anyone. They could have been quietly shopping Rosen for weeks at least."
As for the talk that the Cardinals didn't make a decision on Murray until this week, one scouting executive called it "bulls--t" and pointed out that the team was telling everyone who would listen at the NFL Scouting Combine that Murray was their pick.
As soon as Kliff Kingsbury was hired, the Cardinals became connected to Murray. No matter what they tried to say on social media, everyone knew this, and Keim misplayed his hand in shopping and leveraging Rosen.
With the clock winding down on the 2019 draft and many quarterback-needy teams filling their holes through draft picks, the Cardinals were left with only the Miami Dolphins as a viable trade partner. Keim's leverage was gone.
Friction in San Francisco
There were handshakes, bro hugs and smiles in the draft room as the 49ers drafted Nick Bosa at No. 2 overall in the 2019 draft, but word out of San Francisco points to friction and a potential breakup of head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch.
According to sources in the team's scouting and coaching staff, the two aren't in lock step as far as the vision of the offseason and the future of the franchise. The coach, Shanahan, wants to scheme and develop players while not being bothered with the player evaluation process, but more and more he finds himself involved while not trusting the decision-making of Lynch—a former media analyst after his Hall of Fame playing days but not someone with a scouting background.
The 49ers signed both Lynch and Shanahan to six-year contracts when they were hired before the 2017 season. With four years left and a team that's been stuck in neutral ever since, a power struggle could be coming with Lynch and chief deputy Adam Peters on the outs, and Shanahan looking for his own personnel man to run the draft and free agency.
Teams Drafted Not to Lose
There was just one general manager fired in the last offseason, with Oakland's Reggie McKenzie replaced by Mike Mayock. Because of this, there are many front office staff on the hot seat. That led to a lot of safe drafts, according to multiple league sources.
"It wasn't a great draft with a lot of premium players," said one AFC executive. "That, plus it was a very predictable draft led to a lot of safe selections." Teams are also more afraid to swing and miss when the draft doesn't feature high-end talent at quarterback or offensive tackle.
The same executive pointed to the late selections of the wide receivers and cornerbacks. "Those are generally higher bust rate positions. Teams played it safe with linemen in this draft."
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.