Draft King Analysis
March 4, 2019
Lou Pickney, DraftKing.com
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The 2019 NFL Draft is still many weeks away, but things are slowly beginning to move into focus for most of the top prospects as we reach the other side of the NFL Combine.
The top question I get asked these days: is Arizona really going to trade QB Josh Rosen and use the #1 overall pick on Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray? My response has been to express with skepticism. But the longer this story lingers, the more viable it seems as an option.
Of course, this could be intentional misdirection by Arizona, trying to extract the maximum value available for the #1 overall pick. This is a deep draft for defensive linemen and pass rushers, and while I've suspected the Cardinals would look in that direction even if they trade down, that would likely be contingent on who is on the board at that point.
At the #2 spot, one would suspect the 49ers are holding their breath, hoping Ohio State EDGE Joey Bosa will still be on the board. Bosa is the top edge pass rusher on most boards, and nothing from the past weekend dissuaded me from that line of thinking.
The pairing of Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins with the Giants at #6 is a popular choice, in large part because the match makes sense. New York has an aging Eli Manning at QB, which if nothing else should be helpful to allow their heir apparent QB become acclimated with the NFL and the speed of the pro game before making the switch.
But the Giants might have to move up from #6 to get Haskins. It's no longer cost-prohibitive to trade into or out of the top five of the draft, and a team like Miami or Washington leapfrogging the Giants to get Haskins seems like a realistic possibility. I didn't list Jacksonville here as I expect the Jaguars to land former Eagles Super Bowl-winning QB Nick Foles ahead of the draft.
Oakland presents a considerable challenge with three first-round picks. I've been in the mock draft biz going back to 2003, and this is my first time facing the challenge of projecting the picks of a team with so many options with early draft selections.
At this point, I'm strongly considering penciling in Ole Miss WR D.K. Metcalf to the Raiders at #4. Metcalf impressed in Indianapolis, much as I expected he would knowing about his special athleticism. If Bosa and Allen are off the board, Oakland may opt to wait until later in the round to fill their DL pass rushing need.
There are some questions about Metcalf's flexibility after his rather pedestrian showing in the three-cone drill, and while #4 might be a high projection, it's not exactly unrealistic.
It was a nice showing at the combine by Iowa tight end Noah Fant, who measured in at just a hair under 6'5" 250, as he ran a 4.5 40-yard dash. That is remarkable speed for his size. And while it's a somewhat crowded field at tight end, to the point where we could see a run on them late in the first round, Fant seems as likely as anyone to be the first tight end drafted in 2019.
With the Redskins at #15, clearly the team needs help at quarterback after Alex Smith suffered a gruesome leg injury late last season that could prove to be career-ending. There have been whispers for weeks now about Washington being interested in Duke QB Daniel Jones. I have some accuracy concerns about Jones, but by the time Washington goes on the clock, there could be limited QB options on the board.
As far as front seven defensive prospects go, Florida State's Brian Burns and Michigan's Rashan Gary impressed at the combine. Burns weighed in just below 250 pounds but still managed to run a 4.56 40-yard dash. And Gary at 6'4" 277 pounds running a ~4.6 40-yard dash is really something.
Also, Mississippi State EDGE Montez Sweat had an overall strong combine. Showings like that might actually prompt teams with high picks needing EDGE rushers, and there are plenty of them, to be more willing to trade down, perhaps as far as the Redskins' selection at #15 overall.
There are some concerns about Florida EDGE Jachai Polite, who I had estimated would be a mid-late first-round selection. His terrible showing in the 40-yard dash (4.8+ seconds) and then claim of a hamstring injury wasn't a good look, then he ran into some problems during his team interviews.
All it takes is for one team to like you to come off the board, but Polite might have lost out on a chance to be a night one selection. And while Polite should have an opportunity to redeem himself at Florida's Pro Day, this is a tough spot from which to work at this point in the draft process.
I've changed my approach to a mock draft this year, linking players with teams versus board position. You will likely see me keep Haskins at the #6 spot with the Giants in my forthcoming first post-combine mock of 2019, even though I suspect the Giants would need to trade up to get him.
My hope is to have that new mock up by midweek, but with several elements in motion between franchise tags and the ramp-up to free agency, there might be a delay to that end. As always, team needs (both perceived and real) change once the dust settles in the open market.