Less than 24 hours from now, Commissioner Roger Goodell will step to the podium, in front of thousands of anxious football fans, and declare the 2019 NFL Draft open. Now broadcast on several television networks, the NFL Draft has become a spectacle of sorts and this year’s rendition in Nashville will prove to be no different. Each year we are exposed to countless story-lines to follow in the months and days leading into the Draft, and this year, there is perhaps more uncertainty as to what will arise than ever before. That being said, here is your guide on what to watch for during the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Kyler Murray Experience
Since January 8th, when the Arizona Cardinals hired Kliff Kingsbury to be their next Head Coach, they have been connected with Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray. Back in 2018, Kingsbury, then of Texas Tech, said that if he could, he would draft Murray with the #1 overall pick in the draft. This is the spark that has led many to believe that Murray will, in fact, be the first player off the board on Thursday night. However in recent days, there has been speculation that the Cardinals are not likely to take the Heisman winner, whether it is a smokescreen or not, this report should not be ignored. Now if Cardinals pass on Murray and opt to stick with Josh Rosen at QB, how far will Murray fall? Could he fall into the lap of the New York Giants and be paired with Saquon Barkley forming an electric offensive backfield? One under-the-radar possibility to watch if Murray falls beyond the top pick is whether John Gruden and Mike Mayock of the Oakland Raiders opt to spare one or more of their three first round picks to move up a few spots to take Murray, or just wait and see if he falls into their lap at four. From showcasing his talents as a true freshman at Texas A&M, to becoming a two-sport star at Oklahoma, leading to a first-round selection by the Oakland Athletics in the 2018 MLB Draft, to backing up future top pick Baker Mayfield only to end up taking the nation by storm the next year and ultimately winning the Heisman Trophy, Kyler Murray never ceases to amaze and captivate an audience.
Another Jets First Round Trade?
Last year the New York Jets used numerous picks, in a trade with the Indianapolis Colts, to move up three spots to take their next franchise QB, Sam Darnold. Now sitting with the third pick in the 2019 draft, could we see the Jets cash in to replenish their draft capital? This is something that has been rumored since the draft order was finalized. With some top defensive talent available at the top then a rather large drop-off, it will be interesting to see what the Jets do as they try to take a huge step forward in 2019. What this decision will likely come down to is what happens with the two picks ahead of them. If the Cardinals pass on Murray to select either DE Quinnen Williams (Alabama), DE/OLB Nick Bosa (Ohio State) or DE/OLB Josh Allen (Kentucky), and the 49ers follow suit, the Jets could find themselves in an opportunity to sell high on their pick to a QB-needy team who is willing to be aggressive to get their guy. The Giants, in addition to Washington, Miami, Tampa Bay and potentially Oakland, could feel the need to move up to ensure they get whoever it is they covet.
NY Giants QB Situation
Many thought last year was the year for the Giants to strike and find Eli Manning’s successor. However, in a smart move, the Giants simply could not pass up the opportunity to draft a generational elite talent in Saquon Barkley. Barkley took the league by storm in 2018, but if the Giants want to capitalize on Barkley’s talents, they will need more production out of the quarterback position or will, at least, need to find the long-term answer at QB. In shipping Odell Beckham Jr. to Cleveland, the Giants yielded a second first round pick, which could be key in determining the Giants success in the early rounds of the draft. There is a connection between Manning and Duke QB Daniel Jones, as they have actually trained together in the past, in addition to Eli’s strong relationship with Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe. Jones, similar in frame and style to Manning, is likely to be there when the Giants make their second pick at 17. However, Dwayne Haskins, widely considered as the best QB in this class may be there at 6 for the Giants taking and it will be interesting to see how they value him as compared to Jones, among others. In addition, come draft night, will the Giants feel the need to move up either from sixth or 17th to get their guy (whoever that may be)? The Giants are ultimately in a great spot if they feel as if the future of their franchise is in this class, and if not, are well suited to improve greatly should these two picks be used properly.
Running Back Class
Just when it seemed teams were placing low value on the running back position and moving away from drafting the position near the top of the draft, we have seen teams jump early at the chance to have an elite ball carrier. This has been seen in recent years, with picks such as Ezekiel Elliot, Leonard Fournette and the aforementioned Saquon Barkley. However 2019 could be very different; it is entirely possible that we go the whole first round without a running back being selected, something that hasn’t happened since 2014, when in the second round, Bishop Sankey of Washington, was the first RB selected. Alabama’s Josh Jacobs is widely regarded as the best RB in this year’s class and will likely be the first one off the board but when will that be? Jacobs has been rumored to have received interest from Indianapolis, Philadelphia, and Oakland who all sit with picks in the mid-to-late 20s range. There is a good chance Jacobs gets his name called on Thursday night but don’t be shocked if he has to wait it out until day two.
Every year, it seems we talk endlessly about when the Patriots dynasty will begin to fall apart and when Tom Brady will hang up his cleats. It’s hard to believe that it’s been five years since a little-known QB from Eastern Illinois was selected in hopes of being the successor to the winningest quarterback of all-time. Since he was picked, Jimmy Garoppolo has developed under the tutelage of Brady and Bill Belichick, shipped out to San Francisco in exchange for a first round pick and signed to an extension that gives him the keys to the 49ers franchise as their QB of the future. That being said, aging Brian Hoyer has been Brady’s backup the last couple of seasons so it is likely we see them dip into this year’s deep QB pool. Names to watch for in New England include Drew Lock (Missouri), who is a likely first or second rounder, Ryan Finley (NC State), also considered to be a second rounder and Will Grier (West Virginia), who could prove to be a steal in the mid-rounds. Furthermore, with the retirement of Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots will absolutely have to find someone to fill that void. The tight end position is a crucial aspect of the Belichick/McDaniels offense, a position in which new free agent signee Austin Sefarian-Jenkins boasts the most NFL experience. This year’s draft class features two absolute freaks at the tight end position; Noah Fant and TJ Hockenson, both out of Iowa. With a fairly steep drop off, I would not be surprised if Belichick and the Pats moved up into the early twenties or late-teens to get one of the two Hawkeyes. However, if they stand pat at the 32nd overall pick, they will likely be passing up an opportunity at Fant or Hockenson and will have to adjust their focus to Irv Smith Jr. out of Alabama or wait into the second or third round to select Texas A&M’s, Jace Sternberger. No matter the circumstances, Bill Belichick and the Patriots seem to always have a plan and always seem to succeed in executing that plan come draft time. I would certainly expect that to be the case here in 2019 as well.
Non-football fans don’t seem to understand the spectacle that is the NFL Draft, but the copious amounts of story-lines and intrigue as to how the cards will fall is what makes it such captivating entertainment. So, grab some chicken wings, your favorite beverage, sit back, relax and enjoy!