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It wasn’t long ago that Justin Herbert was everyone’s consensus first overall pick and Kyler Murray was nowhere to be found on mock drafts, destined to play baseball. That’s how quickly things can change in the NFL.
In fact, one area scout assigned to Oklahoma said he didn’t even bother writing analysis on Murray this past season despite seeing the Sooner play live three times during the collegiate year. Now Murray appears to be the centerpiece of the entire 2019 NFL draft.
Free agency certainly will change the landscape, but we leave the NFL scouting combine in the rearview mirror with a much clearer picture of how things are shaping up as we steamroll toward Round 1 on April 25. Here’s a look at how things could shape up:
1. Arizona Cardinals – Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray
All signs point to Murray going first. If the Cardinals are going to hire Kliff Kingsbury and attempt to avoid another embarrassing head-coaching decision, why not give the man the QB he recruited out of high school, praised as Texas Tech head coach and who would be a perfect offensive fit.
All this stuff about Murray not doing well in interviews … could it be that he got some sort of wink-nod promise from Arizona? Or maybe it’s that teams below the Cardinals want the guy and are hoping to get a little bad info out there. Whatever it is, it’s OK to ignore most of that.
The last time a school produced back-to-back top overall picks: USC, back in 1968 and 1969 with Ron Yary and O.J. Simpson, both becoming Hall of Famers. The man Murray backed up in 2017 and last year’s No. 1 pick, Baker Mayfield, was terrific as a rookie. Will Murray have as much success in Year 1 as the man he once backed up? It’s tough to live up to those expectations, but Murray has special traits, and this offense would be built around accentuating them.
As for what might happens with Josh Rosen? Perhaps a trade to the Redskins or Giants or, if the price is right, a savvy team such as the Patriots, smelling the confluence of rare value and opportunity.
One of the worst-kept secrets from the combine was the 49ers’ adoration for Bosa, so this would constitute a dream scenario. Yes, they’ve invested heavily up front. But they don’t have that edge terror on Bosa’s level, and the defense was a major disappointment a year ago, so every little bit of juice helps. The Bosa brothers now will be taking over the Left Coast. Trading down would be an option, too, for the 49ers given that the edge-rush draft pool looks deep. The Niners suddenly find themselves in the driver’s seat again after two tough seasons.
Their needs on offense can be addressed through free agency. Assuming that happens, the Jets shouldn’t force the issue here. A trade certainly would be a possibility, with Murray going first and other QB-needy teams’ triggers itching. The Jets could get back the second-rounder they currently lack from the Sam Darnold trade – and maybe more.
4. Oakland Raiders – Kentucky DE Josh Allen
The number of players at the combine who listed Allen as the toughest opponent they faced this season was shocking, but his 2018 tape backed that up. He’s a gifted athlete who improved as much as any player in the country, and the Raiders have a massive need for pass-rush help. They collected 17 fewer sacks than any other team in the league. Wonder why.
With the Raiders, who knows? And maybe all this buttering up for Derek Carr is fluff and they take Dwayne Haskins here. But for now, I am going strict need and a top talent in Allen.
The chatter coming from Indy was that the Bucs would love to trade down. They did that last year and passed on Derwin James (twice) to take Vita Vea. Making that mistake again would be disastrous, and there’s a lot of defensive talent in this draft to salivate at here.
But the o-line remains an issue. Taylor isn’t universally beloved quite this high in the draft, but he has great skills and has handled some big matchups well. Tampa Bay’s line needs help at guard and tackle, and Taylor can play both. Re-signing OT Donovan Smith shouldn’t prevent the Bucs from making this pick, but this certainly feels like a trade-down spot if the right offer comes in. They might be able to grab Taylor a handful of spots lower, too.
6. New York Giants – Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins
Even with the Giants already in arrears on their QB investment with Eli Manning passing his starter expiration date, I am very reluctantly pairing him up with Haskins here. The gut says general manager Dave Gettleman, an old-school evaluator, remains steeped in the Giants’ scouting system that has been in place for nearly two decades, a group that might not cast Haskins in the same favorable light that other evaluators have cast on him. Inexperienced quarterbacks – Haskins started for one year – typically wouldn’t earn this high a grade from this team. So let’s put it this way: Haskins won’t drop much farther than here when it’s all said and done.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars – Ole Miss WR D.K. Metcalf
Running and working out the way he did at the combine, Metcalf stands to go very high, even if some teams are concerned about his lack of lateral quickness and his extremely low body-fat percentage that can lead to injuries long term. Assuming they land QB Nick Foles, the Jaguars are going to want to give him a tank of a target who can threaten secondaries with his rare skills. How it all plays out, though, with offensive personnel built to run the ball in a power system but with a new coordinator (John DeFilippo) who got fired from the Vikings for throwing the ball too often, remains a huge mystery.
8. Detroit Lions – Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson
Fans of this team who boo a pick based on the position they play should have their season tickets revoked. Hockenson is not Eric Ebron, people; he’s one of the safer picks in the draft who will be a force as a blocker and receiver, and he’s only beginning to reach his ceiling after a breakout redshirt sophomore season. The Lions have drafted almost exclusively for need with their top picks under GM Bob Quinn, and the team has made it known they need help at this position. We almost mocked Hock to Jacksonville the pick prior, but Metcalf’s nuclear combine tilted the picks slightly.
9. Buffalo Bills – OT-OG Jonah Williams
Needing multiple offensive linemen, the Bills find a perfect fit in Williams, who could play guard but who also has been an excellent tackle for the Crimson Tide. One man who surely knows all of that is Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who was with Bama when Williams was starting as a freshman. Seriously, there are former five-star recruits sitting on Nick Saban’s bench year in and year out, but this highly confident and smart blocker (even if he’s not the most imposing specimen of all time) has been a fixture as a three-year starter. This is an easy pick, where need and talent intersect perfectly.
10. Denver Broncos – Missouri QB Drew Lock
Trading for Joe Flacco shouldn’t prevent the Broncos from seeking a potential franchise quarterback in Lock, albeit one who likely still needs refinement. But if Flacco wasn’t fond of mentoring Lamar Jackson in Baltimore, what makes the Broncos think he’ll be keen on playing QB wet nurse to Lock in Denver?
The Broncos might look to trade down and consider a linebacker or a cornerback, but when head coach Vic Fangio reminded people at the combine that he likes corners who can tackle, it pretty much eliminated any chance that one of those (ahem, Greedy Williams) might go here. One name I also considered here briefly: Iowa TE Noah Fant. Maybe in the next mock.
11. Cincinnati Bengals – Oklahoma OT Cody Ford
The hiring of OL coach Jim Turner was controversial given how he was considered an instigator in the 2013 Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin mess in Miami. The offensive line is a need in Cincy, and the hard-nosed Turner should enjoy what he sees in Ford. Asked at the combine what his mentality is as a blocker, Ford said: “My mentality comes from being able to finish everybody every play and playing through the whistle.”
A linebacker might be in play here, too, with LSU’s Devin White a prime candidate. Really, the Bengals just need to take the top player on their board here. Their biggest need is talent.
12. Green Bay Packers – Mississippi State DE Montez Sweat
Expect the Packers to go in hard for an edge rusher during free agency, but that shouldn’t dissuade them from considering another one here with Clay Matthews reaching the twilight of his career and Nick Perry possibly on the way out. Green Bay was effective at getting to the quarterback a year ago, but coming off a banner combine Sweat might be too good – somewhere on the Jadeveon Clowney spectrum – to pass on here. With a young secondary and some impact front-seven players added to the mix, Mike Pettine’s defense could take a big step forward in 2019.
13. Miami Dolphins – Florida State EDGE Brian Burns
Burns lit up the combine athletically, and his positional work was extremely smooth. He lined up on his feet and shuffled in drills with ease, leading some teams to start expanding the horizon for his projection. Although Burns isn’t as thick as Chandler Jones when he came out in 2012 (and Burns is absolutely quicker and faster than Jones), there are some similarities between how the players could be utilized. New head coach Brian Flores was on staff in New England when Jones was drafted there, and Flores can kick off his Miami tenure with an impact defender in Burns who is capable of disrupting in myriad ways.
14. Atlanta Falcons – Houston DL Ed Oliver
Contract negotiations have stalled with Grady Jarrett, but even if that gets resolved the Falcons could have themselves quite the interior duo on what profiles as a fast-flow, gap-penetrating defense. Yes, there’s some overlap in the skills of the two defensive tackles, but they collectively could be a bear for offensive lines to deal with in tandem. Oliver’s combine weigh-in appeared to assuage concerns about his ability to play in the trenches in this league.
15. Washington Redskins – Michigan DE Rashan Gary
This is lower than Gary commonly has been mocked, but don’t be shocked to see him land in this range. Preston Smith is a free agent-to-be, and Gary could be viewed as an upgrade at that spot, carrying similar dimensions and athletic traits. The Redskins certainly need to figure out their quarterback plans this season with Alex Smith likely to miss all of 2019 and Colt McCoy – at best – a short-term bridge option. Assume any competition added with this coming season in mind will come with a cheaper, shorter-term veteran or perhaps a later-round QB.
16. Carolina Panthers – Washington State OT Andre Dillard
Dillard has the light feet and athleticism to be a Day 1 starter, even as he must show he can finish in the run game and play with a consistent edge in his game. The Panthers are in rough shape all along the offensive line, and they easily could look to the interior here, too, especially for the recently retired Ryan Kalil. But right now, Dillard feels like a good pick here; he might not last much longer than this the way he tested compared to his OT brethren at the combine.
17. Cleveland Browns – Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell
Ferrell didn’t have a banner combine and didn’t run the 40-yard dash, but he could boost his stock again with a strong pro-day workout – and Clemson is notorious for producing fast times, even if scouts take the numbers from that school’s track with a grain of salt. It comes back to the tape for Ferrell, who likely will endear himself to Browns GM John Dorsey for the way he outplayed Alabama OT Jonah Williams in the championship game and throughout his career with the Tigers. Ferrell is a big-framed, productive end in the mold of a young Justin Houston, whom Dorsey had in Kansas City. Bookending Myles Garrett and Emmanuel Ogbah with Ferrell could give Cleveland some real horsepower up front.
18. Minnesota Vikings – North Carolina State C Garrett Bradbury
The offensive line is an obvious place to start as the Vikings try to reshape things and give QB Kirk Cousins a better chance to succeed. Bradbury has experience at guard and center, although he has a chance to be special as the pivot of an offense. Pat Elflein struggled last season in that spot and could be tried at guard, where the offerings are not that enticing either. It’s expected that the Vikings will stick with Riley Reiff and Brian O’Neill at the tackles and look to upgrade inside. Bradbury’s athleticism, toughness and smarts should endear him to Mike Zimmer and Co.
19. Tennessee Titans – Iowa TE Noah Fant
If Fant falls to this spot, the Titans should pounce. He’s exactly what the offense needs as a mismatch seam option for a passing game that was far too one-note last season. QB Marcus Mariota is entering a flashpoint season, and the Titans need to find out fast if he and WR Corey Davis ultimately will be worth the top-five draft picks they spent on them. New offensive coordinator Arthur Smith will be calling plays for the first time, but he shifts over from coaching the tight ends, a group that overachieved under Smith’s watch after Delanie Walker went down. Adding Fant will make that group more dynamic in the passing game.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers – LSU LB Devin White
Steelers GM Kevin Colbert acknowledged that the team “didn’t do enough” to address the loss of Ryan Shazier prior to the 2018 season and that Shazier isn’t playing in 2019. Enter White, a three-down linebacker who fits the Pittsburgh profile and could be an excellent upgrade over the ILB options they settled on last season. His intensity will be a welcome addition, and his athleticism is just what the Steelers need. Plus, his serious nature will be a nice salve for what was been a drama-filled few years.
21. Seattle Seahawks – LSU CB Greedy Williams
The last time at least one cornerback wasn’t selected in the top 20? That would be 2001. Clearly, they’re highly prized, but this year’s class isn’t as top heavy as some recent years. Greedy – born Andraez Williams – entered last season as the top corner but saw his stock cool a bit, and his lean frame, lack of great arm length and so-so tackling haven’t helped kick it back up.
The Seahawks might have more pressing needs (prior to free agency), and we know they always are trade-down candidates in this range. They also haven’t selected a DB in the first three rounds since 2010, but the price for middling free-agent help at this spot could get out of control. Williams would be a smart addition who fits the Seahawks’ mold.
22. Baltimore Ravens – Alabama RB Josh Jacobs
Everyone and their brother are mocking them a wide receiver here, and I completely understand why; right now, Willie Snead IV is Baltimore’s No. 1 target. But I suspect they will target some veterans at that position and also double down in the lower rounds at wideout, taking advantage of some solid depth in this draft. Wouldn’t it be something – in a nod to his mentor, Ozzie Newsome – if new GM Eric DeCosta took a Bama back here? Jacobs has fresh legs and is viewed as a future star. He’d be perfect in this offense to help fuel the ground game following the release of Alex Collins.
23. Houston Texans – Texas A&M C Erik McCoy
There’s a massive need for upgrade on the offensive line, but I couldn’t quite find the right tackle here. Let’s for a moment assume they address that in free agency. Then they can upgrade the interior with McCoy, who had a great Senior Bowl and combine, and looks to be a great fit at either guard or center. It’s not hard to picture McCoy being a Day 1 starter for this team at one of the three interior spots, given who currently occupies them.
24. Raiders (from Chicago Bears) – Iowa State WR Hakeem Butler
Look back at Jon Gruden’s draft history at wide receiver, both with the Bucs and Raiders, and it’s clear: He loves big receivers. Not counting seventh-rounders, Gruden’s teams have drafted only one shorter than 6-foot. Even so, he’s never had one quite like Butler. The 6-foot-6 praying mantis of a receiver still needs to work on his hands and route running, but Butler’s athleticism and upside are undeniable. Gruden can develop Butler over time, and in a few years he might have something special. Oh, and some fun trivia: Butler could be the Cyclones’ first first-round pick since 1973 if this goes down. Party time in Ames.
If the Raiders opt for more of a faster WR option, perhaps Gruden could summon the spirit of Al Davis and draft diminutive Marquise “Hollywood” Brown, whose Lisfranc injury prevented him from running in Indy. But Butler is fast enough.
25. Philadelphia Eagles – Clemson DT Christian Wilkins
Boy, I came close to putting Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons – who just suffered a torn ACL – right here, knowing how smart the Eagles are about valuing talent over filling immediate voids. That’s what they did with Sidney Jones in the middle of Round 2 a few years ago. Instead, we’ll give them the versatile and useful Wilkins, who will be a great fit in the locker room and on the field. The Eagles have a need inside and always do a great job of replenishing both lines of scrimmage with youth and depth.
26. Indianapolis Colts – Mississippi State S Johnathan Abram
GM Chris Ballard has said he wants Clayton Geathers back, and that might be true. But Ballard might fall in love with Abram during the pre-draft run-up, and opt to take a perfect player and leader for this emerging team. Abram has impressed at every stage to this point and showed enough athleticism to warrant first-round merit. Abram’s hitting and ferocious style will hearken back to the Bob Sanders days, and it could help keep Malik Hooker in more of a playmaking, centerfield role.
27. Raiders (from Dallas Cowboys) – Washington CB Byron Murphy
The hardest part about projecting the Raiders’ picks is that you know they have something bold planned up their sleeves, which could include trading one of their three first-rounders. Some of those moves should come during free agency, and it could involve a big draft day shakeup. But in this scenario, we have them adding to a secondary that remains in flux. Murphy is young and a budding ballhawk, someone who could pair with Gareon Conley for the next several years.
28. Los Angeles Chargers – Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence
The Patriots just gashed the Chargers’ defense with a power run game, and though a lot of that was chalked up to it being undersized and shorthanded at linebacker. The Chargers could use more bulk and strength up front. You won’t find too many bigger or more imposing defensive linemen in this class than Lawrence, whose mass and upside outweigh his college production or expectations as a five-star recruit. He could be a major difference maker on a unit featuring Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, and help keep those linebackers from being swallowed up inside.
29. Kansas City Chiefs – Georgia CB DeAndre Baker
Steven Nelson and Orlando Scandrick are free agents who might not be back, which leaves Kendall Fuller, Charvarius Ward and Tremon Smith as the only real contributors among the holdovers. This position could see some help through free agency, but Baker fits the mold of the long-armed (32 1/2 inches) corner the Chiefs have sought in the past, and he could be an early starter for new coordinator Steve Spagnuolo’s defense, even if Baker’s tackling has been questioned. In his past stops, Spagnuolo routinely has utilized three-CB lineups as his “base” group.
30. Packers (from New Orleans Saints) – Michigan LB Devin Bush
I think they’ll consider an offensive lineman here, or maybe a tight end, but with none piquing our interest the way this board falls, we’re going with an undersized, intense, three-down linebacker with speed to burn. Bush ran in the 4.4s in Indy and would be a nice addition at this spot, even with some people wanting to see what former third-round pick Oren Burks can do. Bush, though, is capable of helping the Packers defend against three NFC North teams that throw the ball quite a bit, or at least two now that the Vikings have made a switch at offensive coordinator.
31. Los Angeles Rams – Delaware S Nasir Adderley
They don’t pick again until Round 4 as of now, so you can bet the phone lines will be open for this pick to move down and add extra selections. There’s a lot to figure out with this roster between now and the draft, so the specific needs could shift quite a bit depending on which free agents the Rams are unable to retain, such as DE Dante Fowler Jr. But we’ll go with Adderley, who has some CB-like skills and could be moved back to the position he played early in his college career depending on what the long-term plans are for Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. And if they keep Adderley at safety, that could be an immediate need if Lamarcus Joyner walks this offseason. Adderley could also be available in Round 2.
32. New England Patriots – Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry
The first rule of mock drafts is that you never give Bill Belichick a wide receiver in Round 1. He has never drafted one this high with New England (although he did take Derrick Alexander in the first way back in 1994 with the Browns), so it’s assumed Belichick has a first-round embargo on the position.
But let’s forget all that for a minute. When you’re Belichick and you just won your sixth Super Bowl – without Tom Brady at his best, mind you – you can do pretty much whatever you want. When you’ve reached Belichick’s level of mastery, you can break your own draft rules. Harry gives the Patriots a feisty, serious and extremely talented pass catcher for Brady’s swan-song years, which is a big need if Josh Gordon is deemed untrustworthy from this point on.
Teams without a first-round pick
58. Cowboys – Ohio State DT Dre’Mont Jones
He’s a nice fit for a one-gap, penetrating system such as that of the Cowboys, and his sub-par combine workout might help Dallas get a borderline first-round talent whose best football could be ahead of him this late in the draft. Jones has more basketball in his background than football, and the Cowboys have had success drafting these types of athletes in the recent past.
62. Saints – Alabama DT Isaiah Buggs
“Big Pooh” was a bit lost in the shadows at Bama, but he turned in a nice Senior Bowl week that should raise his stock more than his so-so combine workouts will hurt him. The Saints have a need inside with Sheldon Rankins suffering a torn Achilles in the postseason, so the Ruston, Louisiana, native might even be in line for early work if he lands here.
88. Bears – Memphis RB Darrell Henderson
Chicago’s long wait, having traded their first- and second-round picks in the Khalil Mack and Anthony Miller deals, is over. If Henderson lasts this long, he could fit two big needs: more of a Matt Nagy-friendly back than Jordan Howard, as well as a quality kick returner. Although Henderson’s size and vision are concerns, he’s the perfect complementary back next to Tarik Cohen and could be a hit with his tackle-breaking style. Nagy knows how to scheme up lanes for this type of run-to-daylight back. Another name to file away: Penn State RB Miles Sanders, but we suspect he’ll go off the board sooner than this.
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