On the heels of the Senior Bowl, multiple players’ NFL Draft stocks are on the rise. Montez Sweat, Drew Lock and Daniel Jones are among the notable beneficiaries of last weekend’s game. Nick Bosa has been highly regarded as the top pick from the get-go, but after a season-ending injury and vast improvement amongst his competition, he no longer holds the clear-cut top spot.
Kyler Murray, the Heisman-winning quarterback who has yet to make a firm decision on which sport he’ll play professionally (his $4.4 million contract bonus with the Oakland Athletics will be void should he participate in the NFL Combine), has shaken up the quarterback board that was previously ruled by Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins.
The Oakland Raiders have three picks in the opening round thanks to the deals involving Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper, and the Green Bay Packers garnered a second first-round selection from the Saints. The Bears, Cowboys and Saints are the only teams without a pick in the opening round, while all other teams hold a single selection.
The Arizona Cardinals are on the clock…
1. Arizona Cardinals- Quinnen Williams (DT, Bama)
The Cardinals opt to address the interior of the defensive line rather than the edge, grabbing Williams to kick things off. Williams provided a stellar campaign for the runner-up Crimson Tide. The Alabama product was responsible for 19.5 tackles for loss, 8 sacks and 71 total tackles.
Arizona will have its pick of top players, and they will not have a need to gamble on the health of Nick Bosa when a talent like Quinnen Williams sits ready in the wait. They allowed the most rushing yards to opposing teams last year, making this pick a necessary one. Pairing Williams on a defensive line with Chandler Jones should work wonders for a defense that needs a fresh face in the fold.
With Kliff Kingsbury set to remodel the existing offense, he need not reach for an offensive player atop the draft. Trading back to acquire assets and offensive players is a possibility, but they won’t reach if they stay at one.
2. San Francisco 49ers- Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
With the Cardinals taking the safe route with a healthy Quinnen Williams, San Francisco gleefully watches Bosa fall into their lap. In an injury-shortened three-game season, the junior racked up 14 total tackles, 4 sacks and 6 tackles for loss. He’ll immediately help out the defense that ceded the fifth-most points in the league. Bosa is one of the top talents in the draft, making this pick another wise one for John Lynch and company.
3. New York Jets- Josh Allen (OLB, Kentucky)
With the top two defenders gone, the Jets opt to take the rising star from Kentucky. Allen is one of the most intriguing prospects in the draft, as he rose to stardom while simultaneously bringing Kentucky back to national relevance.
The Jets need help on defense, as they gave up the fourth-most points and eighth-most total yards in 2018. Allen looks to be the most dominant linebacker/edge rusher combo to come out of college since Khalil Mack, and this pick would remodel the defense if he’s half as good as the Chicago superstar.
4. Oakland (or wherever they’ll play) Raiders- Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
Oliver is the best player left on the board after the big-name defensive stalwarts are gone. Oliver is one of the best raw talents in the draft and had injuries not plagued his final season at Houston, he may have gone first overall.
He’ll play next to Maurice Hurst on a defensive line that will suddenly be able to get to the backfield and pressure the quarterback, something the Raiders desperately need help doing.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
Tampa has two capable quarterbacks that alternated to produce 415.5 yards per game, good for third-most in the NFL. However, because their defense was practically Swiss cheese, (they allowed the sixth-most total yards in the game) they finished as the fifth-worst team in the league.
Selecting a ball-hawk like Greedy Williams to lock down the opposition’s top weapon would help rectify that. Williams, along with teammate Devin White, made LSU’s defense one of the best units in the country. The Bucs need to build a sufficient defense to give their offense a chance to win games, and Williams will be a big step in the right direction.
6. New York Giants- Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma)
If Russell Wilson has a brother from another mother, it’s Kyler Murray. The reigning Heisman Trophy winner can outrun everyone on the field, throw accurately down the field and has the character and leadership a franchise quarterback needs. After Kyle Lauletta crashed and burned off-the field as a rookie, the Giants have the perfect successor for Eli Manning. The potential to have an offense led by a dual-threat quarterback, Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. is a nightmarish proposition.
The only reason Murray isn’t going before this point is the looming possibility of Major League Baseball. Obviously, nobody will be spending a top pick on him without doing their homework on his sporting intentions. Should the Giants get their hands on the Kyler Murray that elects an NFL future, nobody will ever-again question the selection of Saquon Barkley the year before.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars- Dwayne Haskins (QB, Ohio State)
With Murray off the board, Jacksonville settles for Dwayne Haskins as the successor to a disgruntled Blake Bortles. Haskins will be handed the starting job unless Tom Coughlin opts to trade for competition (Nick Foles, Teddy Bridgewater, etc.).
It’s not the best situation for a rookie signal-caller, as there are few weapons surrounding him. Leonard Fournette hasn’t seen eye-to-eye with the team’s brass either, making the offense even murkier. Haskins will get a long audition to prove his worth but he’ll be hard pressed to right the ship without a better supporting cast. Haskins is no Murray but he has the potential to last as a serviceable, mid-level starter and with a once-formidable defense still largely intact, that could be enough to have long-term success.
8. Detroit Lions- Jonah Williams (OT, Bama)
The clock is ticking on Matthew Stafford and the Lions need to help him out if they intend to be competitive. That starts with keeping him upright, something of which Jonah Williams will be of assistance.
9. Buffalo Bills- D.K. Metcalf (WR, Ole Miss)
The Bills had one of the league’s best defenses and don’t need much help. Josh Allen needs weapons on offense if he is to develop, and Metcalf is the best weapon available to him in this draft. It’s a bit of a reach but it is a seamless fit for both parties. Whether it comes at ninth overall or after a trade back, Metcalf belongs in Western New York.
10. Denver Broncos- Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
Case Keenum, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler were all failures. Drew Lock has more natural talent, smarts and athleticism than all of the aforementioned players. John Elway will snatch Lock with his eyes set on building him into the franchise cornerstone.
11. Cincinnati Bengals- Devin White (ILB, LSU)
Cincinnati’s defense needs help in pretty much every department. Seeing White slide down the board thanks to five offensive selections in a row is a welcome sight for a franchise trying to find its footing again after the dismissal of longtime head coach Marvin Lewis.
12. Green Bay Packers- Rashan Gary (DT, Michigan)
The Packers have needs all over their defense after the worst season in the Aaron Rodgers era. With number twelve banged up and the defense failing to step up, Green Bay missed the postseason and fired former Super Bowl Champion Mike McCarthy midseason.
Green Bay needs defenders if they hope to give Rodgers a reason to keep scoring. Gary is the best defender left on the board, and the Packers pounce.
13. Miami Dolphins- Jeffery Simmons (DT, Mississippi State)
For a minute, it looked as if Miami could win the AFC East after their miraculous trick play defeated the Patriots late in the season. Unfortunately, after the departure of Ndamukong Suh last offseason, the Dolphins failed to bring pressure and succumbed to New England down the stretch. Simmons will give Miami new life in the trenches, something they’ll welcome after allowing the sixth-most points in the league a year ago.
14. Atlanta Falcons- Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
Takkarist McKinley has had a dumpster fire of an offseason, Bruce Irvin is aging and that is a recipe for a disaster up front in the near future. Selecting Ferrell as an insurance policy and pairing him with former fellow Clemson standout Vic Beasley, who led the league in sacks in 2016, is intriguing.
15. Washington Redskins- Will Grier (QB, West Virginia)
In all likelihood, Alex Smith won’t be wearing pads ever again, let alone next year. Washington stays within the DMV area in selecting Grier, who they’ll hand the keys to the offense to immediately without sufficient competition.
16. Carolina Panthers- Montez Sweat (OLB, Mississippi State)
After a great week at the Senior Bowl, Sweat saw his stock catapult through the roof. The Panthers could use the athleticism Sweat displayed in both the practices and the game last weekend, and with their main defensive weapons not named Kuechly aging, they take their opportunity.
17. Cleveland Browns- Jachai Polite (DE, Florida)
Polite glides down the board relatively unnoticed as the third-best defensive tackle available in a draft that has been dominated by defensive tackles, linebackers and quarterbacks. With Baker Mayfield and Nick Chubb running the offense that has turned many heads up north, they need no weapons on that side of the ball. Myles Garrett leads a revitalized defense that could use another defensive end to wreak treachery with. With Garrett facing double-teams, Polite will be quite impolite to those who stand in his way.
18. Minnesota Vikings- Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
Minnesota took a major step back in 2018, missing the playoffs after reaching the NFC Championship in the prior campaign. Kirk Cousins was only par after being paid handsomely and the secondary performed admirably (3rd-fewest yards allowed). Their run defense was only average, however, and Wilkins can aid in that department.
19. Tennessee Titans- Noah Fant (TE, Iowa)
Delanie Walker’s season was ended right when it began thanks to a devastating ankle injury. He’ll be 35 when the 2019 season begins and staring the end of his career in the face. Fant serves as a fine replacement and in an offense devoid of playmakers, he’ll be a welcome sight.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers- DeAndre Baker (CB, Georgia)
The Steelers need someone who has the athleticism, skills and smarts to play defensive back. With Artie Burns failing to make an impact thus far, DeAndre Baker will challenge and usurp him for the starting gig next to Joe Haden. Haden’s contract is up in 2020, making Baker quite the commodity.
21. Seattle Seahawks- Deionte Thompson (FS, Bama)
Earl Thomas has voiced his desire to leave Seattle and now that he’s a free agent, he’ll be able to pick his next destination. Thompson will have quite the shoes to fill in his stead but the former Crimson Tide safety may be up to the challenge.
22. Baltimore Ravens- Damien Harris (RB, Bama)
Harris proved he was capable of being a feature back in Tuscaloosa, though he ceded work to Josh Jacobs after returning to college last season. His stock didn’t fall too far, however, and he’ll be a great fit next to Lamar Jackson in Baltimore’s run-oriented scheme.
23. Houston Texans- Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
Houston has missed A.J. Bouye ever since Jacksonville outbid them. Kareem Jackson and Johnathan Joseph are both on the wrong side of 30. Murphy has fresh legs and star-caliber potential, something the Texans need patrolling the sidelines.
24. Oakland Raiders (via Bears)- Josh Jacobs (RB, Bama)
Both Bama backs come off the board by the end of the first. With Marshawn Lynch nearing his end and the team devoid of weapons in their offensive attack, the Raiders grab themselves a bulldozer who ran wild to the tune of 5.3 yards per carry on 120 attempts for the Crimson Tide. He didn’t lose a single fumble in his college career. “Beast Mode” could teach the youngster a thing or two before he calls it quits too.
25. Philadelphia Eagles- Greg Little (OT, Ole Miss)
Philadelphia’s number one priority is to keep Carson Wentz upright. With Jason Peters entering his age 38 season, should he even continue his career, the Eagles need to sure-up their tackles. Little becomes the starter once Peters rides off into the sunset, which could be any minute now.
26. Indianapolis Colts- Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
The emergence of superstar rookie Darius Leonard has rejuvenated the Indianapolis defense. With Margus Hunt providing pedestrian numbers (22 total tackles and 5 sacks in 2018), Jones makes for an intriguing replacement. At Ohio State, Jones finished with 8.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss and 43 total tackles in his final campaign in Columbus.
27. Oakland Raiders (via Cowboys)- Mack Wilson (ILB, Bama)
Instead of opting for one of the many receivers on the board, the Raiders choose to grab hard-hitting Bama linebacker Mack Wilson and wait about ten picks for a receiver. Wilson’s hard-hitting style reminds me of Reuben Foster, who finishes tackles with ease. Wilson will become a prototypical fan-favorite for Raider Nation thanks to his loud hits and with his ability to track the ball–he had six interceptions in his final 25 games in Tuscaloosa–he’ll be a valuable asset to a defense lacking top-talent.
28. Los Angeles Chargers- Jawaan Taylor (OT, Florida)
Philip Rivers has more weapons at his disposal than ever. He should be given more time to find them. Despite ranking in the top half of the league in yards per game, they ran the fifth-fewest plays from scrimmage in the league. If they improved that frequency, even by the slightest of margins, it may be enough to get through the postseason. After all, they still finished just two games away from the Super Bowl having run 22 less plays than the Washington Redskins.
29. Kansas City Chiefs- Amani Oruwariye (CB, Penn State)
They have one of the best offenses in the league and a dominant defensive line. However, with the exception of Eric Berry and Kendall Fuller, their secondary needs work. The 6’1”, 203-pound corner brings physicality with his speed and his elite ball-skills (7 INTs and 18 passes defensed in final 2 years at PSU) to a Kansas City team that needs help at his position.
30. Green Bay Packers (via Saints)- Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)
With Aaron Rodgers’ leadership in question and seemingly growing impatient while management continues to neglect any semblance of a defense, Rodgers could force his way out of Wisconsin. It will not be immediately but at some point, he’s likely moving on.
Jones impressed at the Senior Bowl last weekend and would serve as a fine heir to Rodgers’ throne. It’s not ideal, it’s not flashy but the Packers need to address the position they haven’t worried about since Favre skipped town over a decade ago upon Rodgers’ selection. The passing of the candle will happen to Jones if he can become a starting-caliber talent while serving under Rodgers’ tutelage, at least while he stays with the only franchise he’s only known.
31. Los Angeles Rams (or 32)- Cody Ford (OT, Oklahoma)
The Rams are stacked at pretty much every position on the gridiron. After all, that’s why they’ve reached the Super Bowl for the first time since Brady knocked them off for his first ring seventeen years ago. Andrew Whitworth, who has been a stalwart on the line, is 37 and the offensive line must be impenetrable if this success is to continue. Ford kept Kyler Murray upright en route to the College Football Playoff and will one day do the same for Jared Goff.
32. New England Patriots (or 31)- A.J. Brown (WR, Ole Miss)
Belichick finds another weapon late in the first round once again. With Josh Gordon’s football future in limbo, Brown would make one heck of a target to stick across from Julian Edelman. Chris Hogan hasn’t been effective enough to trust with a large target share, making Brown the proper selection for the final few years of Tom Brady’s storied career.