The 2019 N.F.L. draft is underway in Nashville, with 254 picks spread out over three days. Day 1 will feature the first round (32 picks), and will undoubtedly change the fortunes of several franchises.
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13: Miami Dolphins: Christian Wilkins, DT
6-foot-3, 315 pounds
A quick player who rarely makes the wrong move, Wilkins is limited by his need to stick in the scheme he prefers, with another tackle taking up space to make up for Wilkins’s lack of length and overall strength. But in the right spot he can make an enormous impact, often making head’s-up plays to swat down passes — a skill you’d expect to see in a taller player with longer arms. Wilkins graduated college in just two and a half years and has the personality to be embraced by a fan base and locker room, but first he needs to prove he can play.
How he fits: Dwayne Haskins is in a bowling alley currently and he likely is very confused. The Dolphins, a team that badly need a long-term solution at quarterback passed up the best thrower in this draft, choosing to go with Wilkins, a terrific interior defender who is a worthy selection in the first half of the night but doesn’t fill nearly as big of a need as Haskins would have.
12. Green Bay Packers: Rashan Gary, DE
6-foot-4, 277 pounds
Gary is enormous, fast (4.58 40), strong (26 bench press reps) and able to jump (38-inch vertical, 120-inch broad). He’s aggressive and disruptive and he seems like he should be dominant. But after three years of Gary simply trying to plow his way through the line — a strategy that resulted in just 9.5 total sacks — it is safe to say that his technique could use some refinement. The disparity between what it seems like he should do and what he has done created a fairly enormous rift in which some evaluators considered him a top-10 player while others had him in the late teens or early 20s.
How he fits: The Packers continue to avoid first-round skill players at all costs — the team hasn’t drafted one since Aaron Rodgers in 2005 — and go with Gary, a combine star who has never played as well as people have expected him to. Coach Matt LaFleur will be worried about installing a new offense, but Green Bay will have to find a way to coach Gary in a way that unlocks his enormous athletic potential.
11. Cincinnati Bengals: Jonah Williams, G/T
6-foot-4, 302 pounds
Is Williams a guard or a tackle? That’s a debate that could follow the Crimson Tide star for a while. He looked strong playing left tackle in 2018, and there is a lot about his game that is reminiscent of Joe Thomas, a player he has cited as a hero. But he’s small for the position and doesn’t have the extra-long arms that sometimes help a player overcome a lack of height. None of this is to say he won’t be successful. Once a team decides where to stick him, there’s little to indicate he won’t thrive. But the ambiguity will likely come into play as teams decide if he’s a fit for them.
How he fits: The Bengals desperately need a linebacker to replace Vontaze Burfict, but tackle was also a need and Williams’s ceiling is a top left tackle and his floor is a solid guard. There were some more exciting players on the board, but Williams was a safe and smart pick for a team that needs to figure out how to keep its quarterback healthy.
10. Pittsburgh Steelers: Devin Bush, LB
5-foot-11, 234 pounds
Bush’s father — also named Devin Bush — played eight seasons in the N.F.L. as a defensive back and was a member of Coach Jim Harbaugh’s staff in Michigan, helping prepare his son for life as a professional. Some teams will snub their noses at the younger Bush for being smaller than a typical three-down linebacker, but with elite speed (4.43-second 40) and the ability to drop back into coverage with ease, he effectively adds a safety to a team’s front-seven.
How he fits: This pick originally belonged to Denver, a team that could have used Dwayne Haskins at quarterback, but the Broncos shipped the pick to the Steelers instead for a package that has yet to be revealed. Pittsburgh wanted to move up for a chance to beat everyone else to Bush, a player who brings a truly rare combination of skills to the middle of the field.
9. Buffalo Bills: Ed Oliver, DT
6-foot-2, 287 pounds
That many people know Oliver for his argument with Coach Major Applewhite on the sidelines of a game in November is a shame, as Oliver, who snubbed Alabama to play with his brother in Houston, showed a lot of skill in his 32 college games before a knee injury cut his junior year in half. Effectively playing tackle at his size is a rarity, so there is reason for skepticism that he can handle the rigors of the N.F.L., but if he can prove to be an Aaron Donald-like exception to the rule, the skill and intensity are definitely there.
How he fits: This was a very conventional pick in a good way. The Bills needed help on the interior of their defensive line and Oliver was the best tackle on the board. He has the big personality of a star and he should develop into one if Buffalo lets him play in the way that he thrives. Is he Aaron Donald? Maybe not. But he’s in that mold.
8. Detroit Lions: T.J. Hockenson, TE
6-foot-5, 251 pounds
Hockenson won the John Mackey Award as the nation’s top tight end of 2018 despite splitting time with another top prospect at his position, Noah Fant. Both players are hoping to follow in the footsteps of other successful Hawkeye tight ends like Dallas Clark and George Kittle, but Hockenson is the one most analysts agree has the most pro potential. At the combine he ran a 4.7 40-yard dash and showed off a 37.5-inch vertical leap. He has the ideal frame for a tight end. There is a lot of refinement necessary in his blocking, and he could stand to put on some overall muscle mass, but Hockenson should be ready to contribute as a receiver from day one.
How he fits: That didn’t take long. Hockenson had widely been expected to go at No. 7, but waiting until No. 8 isn’t so bad. He will now spend his days controlling the middle of the field for Matthew Stafford, giving Detroit’s big-armed quarterback the big weapon in the red zone that he has been missing since Calvin Johnson retired.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Josh Allen, Edge
6-foot-5, 262 pounds
Allen shares a name with the quarterback Buffalo took with the seventh pick in last year’s draft, but he makes his living chasing quarterbacks rather than throwing passes. This Allen can outrun tackles but has the strength to eventually perfect powering through them as well. He could still use some refinement in terms of adjusting his attack when his first approach doesn’t work, but his 17 sacks and five forced fumbles in 2018 weren’t a fluke. He is not a natural fit as a coverage linebacker, and he may not contribute much outside of pass-rush, but he can add plenty of value to a team regardless.
How he fits: Everyone had assumed the Jaguars would go with T.J. Hockenson based on the terrific fit with Nick Foles, but no one thought Allen would fall this far. Allen fills a distinct need for the team and was by far the top player available on nearly every draft board. Taking advantage of other teams passing on Allen makes perfect sense, but it creates an interesting dilemma as to where Hockenson will end up.
6. New York Giants: Daniel Jones, QB
6-foot-5, 221 pounds
His work with David Cutcliffe has Jones pro-ready in several ways, as his throwing mechanics are already in line with what teams look for, and there is little question that he can handle the mental aspects of the position. That being said, there is at least some concern that he simply doesn’t have the arm to be something special in the N.F.L. The league is littered with success stories of players told the same thing — Joe Montana and Tom Brady both fit that mold — but figuring out if Jones is an exception like them or simply a decent player who can game-manage his way into mild success is what will make or break this pick. He’ll need to get more aggressive in making his read and releasing the ball, and less aggressive in choosing to run, but until he actually gets on the field and is tested by an N.F.L. defense, he’ll likely be a polarizing selection.
How he fits: The Giants have Eli Manning’s successor, or at least they hope they do. Jones never stood out while he was at Duke, but his stock has been soaring over the last few months and he somehow leapfrogged Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. He doesn’t have Haskins’ arm, and he doesn’t have Kyler Murray’s secondary skills, but the Giants, who needed a graceful way to move on from the team’s two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback, have placed an enormous bet on a player whom many had rated as the fourth-best quarterback in this draft.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Devin White, LB
6 feet, 237 pounds
Since he was a star running back in high school, White has fashioned himself into a sideline-to-sideline defender, taking full advantage of his blazing speed (4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash) to earn the Dick Butkus Award in 2018 as college football’s best linebacker. His size is not ideal, and he is still raw enough at the position that he occasionally gets fooled by smart opponents, but the amount of growth he showed once he chose which side of the ball to focus on seems to indicate that he is eminently coachable. He can play his way onto the field immediately but will hit another level if he can increase his feel for the game while maintaining his advantage in athleticism.
How he fits: Tampa Bay had targeted White all along, as he fills the team’s biggest need at inside linebacker, but the Bucs likely sweated out the last few minutes trying to decide if they should take Josh Allen instead. Passing up the top player on the board couldn’t have been easy, but a player like White who can truly run a defense made a lot of sense and gives Coach Bruce Arians an anchor on that side of the ball.
4. Oakland Raiders: Clelin Ferrell, DE
6-foot-4, 264 pounds
In an age of specialization, Ferrell is about as versatile as they come at defensive end. He can be effective against the run while also finding his way to the quarterback with relative ease, and there’s no reason to believe he couldn’t start right away. His ceiling is somewhat limited based on a lack of inside moves and conditioning issues that have seen him wear down as games go along, but his floor is very high.
How he fits: With the first of three first-round picks, the Raiders already showed themselves to be … the Raiders. Instead of picking Josh Allen, the edge rusher they seemingly need, they reached all the way down to Ferrell, an end who was ranked in the mid-20s on many boards. He should be good quickly, but there is little reason to believe he’ll be great. The Raiders have two more picks left to fill out their team, but this pick will have people talking for days.
3. New York Jets: Quinnen Williams, DT
6-foot-3, 303 pounds
It seems like a day will come when every team has a dominant interior lineman out of Alabama. Williams may be the latest in a long line of players who fit that general description, but that shouldn’t take away from how effective he could be from day one provided a team plays to his strengths. Williams is a natural athlete who has repeatedly shown good instincts on the field, but the only real concern with him is that he may struggle to maintain the mass necessary to deal with double-teams. He will have to prove that he can either add weight or successfully use his speed and technique to make up for what amounts to a disadvantage.
How he fits: The Jets’ top need was an edge rusher, but they decided to go with an interior lineman instead. They ended up with a player who was at the top of some lists in terms of potential in this draft. Passing up on Josh Allen seems fairly surprising, as does the decision to not trade down in hopes of filling the team’s bare cupboards more quickly. The Jets must believe that Williams can put on the bulk necessary to dominate from the tackle position.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Nick Bosa, DE
6-foot-4, 266 pounds
A remarkably strong player from head to toe, Bosa can generate interior power like a tackle while still possessing the skill and speed levels of an end. He comes from a football family, with his father, John, having played for Miami and his brother Joey currently starring for the Los Angeles Chargers. Nick, who had 17.5 sacks in limited action over three years, might have to compete with Joey to be the most accomplished Bosa, but to many talent evaluators he was head and shoulders above any other player in this draft class, even after he missed most of the 2018 season as a result of core muscle surgery. There was a mild hubbub about comments he made on Twitter, but the only thing that kept him from being the No. 1 pick was the perfect fit of Murray and Kingsbury.
How he fits: The 49ers already had a star defensive tackle in DeForest Buckner, and they added Dee Ford to bolster their line, but they needed at least one more edge rusher and Bosa is by far the best one available in this draft. There may be some blowback in the Bay Area based on Bosa’s social media posts in the past — especially the post that called Colin Kaepernick a “clown” — but from a purely football standpoint he couldn’t be a better fit. San Francisco will now have to figure out how to add a No. 1 wide receiver.
1. Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray, QB
5-foot-10, 206 pounds
Murray had the unenviable task of following in Baker Mayfield’s shoes at Oklahoma. Not only did he live up to Mayfield by keeping the Heisman Trophy at the school for a second straight season, but in many ways he surpassed the top pick in last year’s draft. Murray’s numbers were staggering: 42 touchdown passes (with just seven interceptions), 4,361 passing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. His athleticism is so outrageous that he was the ninth overall pick in last year’s M.L.B. draft, with talent evaluators saying he had the potential to have a Rickey Henderson-like impact on that game. The biggest question mark about Murray, by far, is how a player of his height and weight can succeed in the modern passing game, but there is also at least some cause for concern that he only has one season under his belt as a full-time starter.
How he fits: The Cardinals undoubtedly are not in love with using the top pick on a quarterback a year after using the 10th overall pick on Josh Rosen, but the pairing of Murray with Coach Kliff Kingsbury is too perfect to pass up. Kingsbury will presumably install an Air Raid-style offense, and short of Mayfield or Patrick Mahomes, there are few quarterbacks in the world more suited to it than Murray. Arizona will have to sort out what to do with Josh Rosen, but the second-year quarterback out of U.C.L.A. should have some trade value for a team hoping he can build on his modest rookie season.
Here is what to expect on Day 1 of the N.F.L. draft:
The top quarterbacks, beyond Murray, are Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and Missouri’s Drew Lock, but there has been some recent enthusiasm for Duke’s Daniel Jones. It’s possible all four quarterbacks will be taken in the first round.
Tight ends rarely go in the first 10 picks, but Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson seems like a good bet to achieve that rare distinction. In something far rarer, Noah Fant, another Hawkeye, may join Hockenson in the first round. No college has ever produced two first-round tight ends in the same year.
It may be a long wait for a running back. Alabama’s Josh Jacobs is the best available option, followed by Penn State’s Miles Sanders, but neither is expected to be a top-15 pick, and it’s entirely possible both will slip out of the first round.
Fans have a hard time getting excited about offensive linemen, but Florida’s Jawaan Taylor is likely to come off the board early, as is Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom.
This draft is considered deep in several positions, but the first day may have relatively few defensive backs taken. Georgia’s Deandre Baker, Washington’s Byron Murphy and Louisiana State’s Greedy Williams could all be first-round cornerbacks, but teams may not be willing to blow a first-day pick on any of the top safeties, a group that includes Virginia’s Juan Thornhill, Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram and Maryland’s Darnell Savage Jr.
Benjamin Hoffman is a senior staff editor and regular contributor to the Keeping Score column in sports. He joined The Times in 2005. @BenHoffmanNYT • Facebook
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