The NFL Draft is almost upon us and for the first time in a few years, there is uncertainty at the top. Heck, the Cleveland Browns don’t even have a pick until the middle of the second round after holding the No. 1 pick--and multiple 1sts--in each of the last two years.
It’s a strange draft season. Several position groups have no consensus No. 1 player. Several likely top-20 players carry serious risk or enough questions that it makes them tough to slot.
Despite all that, I do have some opinions and beliefs about how the 2019 NFL Draft will play out. Some are solidly sourced. Some are my personal opinions on the class and the draft and not really predictions, but hopefully you’ll enjoy the semantical stretch.
Readers familiar with the “quickies” section of each week’s $.10 will recognize the format here. Instead of the expansive explanations, these will be more of the abbreviated variety.
1. I do believe Kyler Murray will be the No. 1 pick by the Arizona Cardinals despite the team trading up to take QB Josh Rosen in last year’s top 10. New coach, new system, new opportunity to cater to Kliff Kingsbury with a more exciting prospect.
2. The Cardinals will trade Rosen to Washington for 2nd round picks this year and next. Washington needs a better long-term plan than aging and injured Alex Smith being backed up by Colt McCoy. Not every team agrees with this assessment, but it sure feels like Washington is one of the teams who would rate Rosen higher than QB3 in this draft class, likely Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. That’s a good thing for Washington fans, by the way…
3. Because everyone wants to talk QBs, my rough comparisons for the more notable quarterbacks in this decidedly underwhelming (after the top 2) class, in the order I rank them:
Kyler Murray-- A more accurate early-career Michael Vick
Dwayne Haskins-- Philip Rivers with less caffeine and antics, for better and worse
Drew Lock-- Not quite Matthew Stafford
Tyree Jackson-- Josh Allen without the fleet running but better control of the fastball
Clayton Thorson-- What Kirk Cousins haters think he is
Daniel Jones-- Matt Cassel 2.0, both the Cassel who won 10 games with a strong Pats supporting cast and the one who was arguably the worst backup in the league in 2018.
Brett Rypien-- Somewhere between Kellen Moore without the sycophantic devotion from Boise State fans and Ryan Fitzpatrick in Tampa Bay
Taryn Christion-- If Tyrod Taylor and Mitchell Trubisky produced a really bright offspring
Will Grier-- Brandon Weeden without the zip on the over-the-middle pass
Ryan Finley-- Kevin Hogan with better mechanics
4. There are two positions that I would never take with a top-10 overall pick: off-ball LB and offensive guard. This year will see one of each with LSU’s Devin White and Alabama’s Jonah Williams, who many teams (including the Lions, his likeliest destination) view as a guard even though he was a darn good left tackle in the SEC. There are always exceptions to every rule; Quenton Nelson was absolutely worthy of going in the top 10 to the Colts last year at guard. Neither White nor Williams, while both good players, will rise to that level of instant difference-maker at positions that don’t typically have a major impact on a team relative to EDGe, OT, CB, WR, or QB.
5. One trade rumor I do put a little stock in is the Bengals trading up from No. 11 to get Dwayne Haskins. The Lions are open for business to move back form No. 8 and could almost certainly get the same tier of player value (Jonah Williams, Montez Sweat, T.J. Hockenson) at 11. Of course, the Bengals are also alleged to be enamored with Michigan LB Devin Bush...
6. From a conversation started at the Combine in February and still believed true by all three parties involved when we chatted last weekend: Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson to the Green Bay Packers at No. 12 is the one player/team marriage to put money on outside of the top 10. Which means, of course, they’ll take Hockenson’s teammate, Noah Fant…
7. Odds on the Raiders selecting in the three first-round slots they currently hold (4, 24 and 27): 30-to-1. I do think they hold onto that pick at No. 4, but deal at least one of the others. No way that organization wants to have the potential to need to pay three players 5th-year options all at the same time. My somewhat educated guess is their No. 4 pick is the draft floor for Nick Bosa.
8. The first player not at the Combine who gets drafted will be North Carolina WR Anthony Ratliff-Williams, somewhere very early on Saturday. The Combine organizers did a pretty strong job this year with their invite list.
9. Michigan DL Rashan Gary is impossible to slot. He could go as high as No. 6 to the New York Giants, based on some sources I’ve heard. I can just as easily see him falling to the late 20s. In the current incarnation of the final mock (which drops Wed night) I have him at 21 to Seattle, but that might be contingent on the Seahawks dealing away a Michigan predecessor, Frank Clark.
10. Some players I believe are going to be selected later than most of us in the draft media project right now, for various reasons:
Delaware safety Nasir Adderley
Florida State EDGE Brian Burns
Iowa State WR Hakeem Butler
UMass WR Andy Isabella
Texas A&M TE Jace Sternberger
LSU CB Greedy Williams
11. The flip side of that coin--several players I believe are going to hear their names called much earlier than most in the media and the fans expect:
Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram
USC OT Chuma Edoga
Houston CB Isaiah Johnson
Washington OT Kaleb McGary
Georgia EDGE D’Andre Walker
Vanderbilt CB Joejuan Williams
I’d add Duke QB Daniel Jones to this list, but it seems most expect him to be a top-10 pick at this point.
12. If there is a player commonly projected to go in the top 10 who slides, my guess for that player is Kentucky EDGE Josh Allen. I love Allen’s potential, but he didn’t seem to move the needle with the NFL personnel folks I talked with early in the offseason. There is no rational explanation other than he’s yet to achieve his football potential despite arguably hitting his athletic potential already, a refrain I did hear when I brought up Allen to NFL-employed scouts in St. Pete during Shrine Game week.
13. There will be two specialists selected this year, both in the final few picks of the 6th round. My guesses, and I admit this is nothing more than that: Utah PK Matt Gay and Arkansas-Pine Bluff P Jamie “Scottish Hammer” Gillan, who can also kick. Don’t be surprised if the Cleveland Browns make one of those picks.
14. New England will drive the talking heads on TV crazy by not selecting a tight end until the fourth round (early guess: San Jose State’s Josh Oliver). But Gronk retired! Yeah, when Bill Belichick becomes predictable or conventional is the day the NFL gets a lot less interesting.
15. With the draft set to be broadcast on approximately 27 percent of all networks in your cable package, the viewing choices cannibalize one another. The ratings won’t be as great as expected, but just as many people will be watching. If you want an alternative to the networks, I humbly suggest my friends over at Draft Network, who are doing a live online broadcast all three days. Trust me, they know the players a lot better than a network who employs analysts who don’t know who Pro Bowl safeties are…
16. The draft itself takes place in Nashville, but the first player taken from the state of Tennessee will not be a Volunteer. Memphis RB Darrell Henderson will get the honor sometime in the fourth round. Vols DE Kyle Phillips will get drafted despite an underwhelming career in Knoxville thanks in part to a fantastic week with different coaching at the Shrine Game.
17. Forecasting the seventh round is about as accurate as me throwing darts with my feet after drinking all day, but one player-team match I really believe in: Idaho LB Kaden Elliss and the Detroit Lions, where his father Luther played for several years. He’s a very good scheme fit for the Lions, who happen to need some depth at LB too.
18. This year’s most successful mock draft will correctly identify 27 of the 32 players in the first round, with nine of the picks exactly right. There is a very good chance it will not be mine, though I’m pretty confident I get at least 25 players and 4 picks exactly right. Which ones? Good question...
19. Every selection between No. 89 and 99 will be traded at least once. Heck, four of them have already been traded. Somehow the Jaguars will wind up with two of those spots and will use one on a wide receiver.
20. My prediction for this year’s Mr. Irrelevant, the final player selected at the end of the 7th round: Syracuse WR Jamal Custis.