The 2019 NFL draft went as expected through the first three picks, and then featured several surprises. While the Oakland Raiders and New York Giants made the most stunning opening-round selections, there was plenty of intrigue throughout all three days. Let’s take a look at the five biggest takeaways:
Arizona Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim took care of Coach Kliff Kingsbury.
This was evident with the draft’s first pick, of course; Arizona took Kingsbury’s quarterback of choice: Kyler Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma.
But he didn’t stop there, adding three talented receivers in Andy Isabella (Massachusetts), Hakeem Butler (Iowa State) and KeeSean Johnson (Fresno State) to a unit that already had a second-round choice from last year’s draft in Christian Kirk. Keim also gave Kingsbury some tools to work with on defense in cornerback Byron Murphy (Washington), defensive lineman Zach Allen (Boston College) and safety Deionte Thompson (Alabama) as the team transitions to a base 3-4 scheme.
Keim is under a lot of pressure after last year’s disastrous campaign, which saw Coach Steve Wilks fired after just one year. The GM responded by making a bold call at quarterback, which in addition to drafting Murray included dealing Josh Rosen, last year’s 10th pick, to the Miami Dolphins, and then making a number of other savvy selections to upgrade this roster.
Quarterback-needy teams got their passers of choice.
Arizona landed its ideal fit for Kingsbury’s offense in Murray. New York Giants GM Dave Gettleman didn’t risk Duke’s Daniel Jones going before their second first-round selection at No. 17, and grabbed Jones with the sixth pick. The Washington Redskins waited patiently for Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins to drop to them at 15th overall.
John Elway handled things perfectly for the Denver Broncos. The team’s front office czar traded back from 10th overall to No. 20, where the Broncos picked talented Iowa tight end Noah Fant. Then in the second round, they got one of the draft’s best blockers in Kansas State’s Dalton Risner and one pick later traded up to nab Missouri quarterback Drew Lock — a player they could have considered at No. 10.
The Dolphins weren’t going to take a passer with the 13th pick, but they sent a late second-round pick to the Cardinals for Rosen, who is a low-risk, high-reward acquisition. If he works out, the team spent very little for a franchise quarterback. If he doesn’t, he’s a low-cost backup and the team can draft a quarterback in next year’s draft, which should include star college QBs in Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Oregon’s Justin Herbert.
The Chiefs left the draft with several big concerns.
The real-life consequences of the police investigation into possible child abuse involving Kansas City Chiefs star wide receiver Tyreek Hill and his fiancee, Crystal Espinal, are far more serious than anything having to do with football. It is unclear what criminal charges or NFL discipline Hill will face, but the Chiefs’ actions in the draft indicate the team is at least preparing for the possibility that Hill no longer will be with the organization.
The Chiefs traded up in the second round to draft Georgia’s Mecole Hardman, whose skill set as a speed receiver resembles that of Hill. They added Virginia defensive back Juan Thornhill later in the second round, and he might be able to help in coverage as a rookie, but the move for Hardman kept Kansas City from addressing more defensive help with that selection, particularly at cornerback.
Kansas City’s defense was one of the worst in the league last season, and while the signing of safety Tyrann Mathieu and trade for Seattle Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark will help, this is still a unit with major question marks — and the team is clearly bracing for the possibility that it will be without Hill, the offense’s top playmaker.
The defensive front seven talent dried up quickly.
This draft was rightly billed as being loaded on defense, and 12 of the first 19 picks were defensive front-seven players.
But even with Michigan’s Rashan Gary sliding out of the top 10 and Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat sliding out of the top 25 (both fell at least in part because of health concerns), the pool of top front-seven defenders dried up quickly. This was most evident for the Seahawks, who passed up the chance to draft Sweat and instead ended up reaching near the end of the first round for TCU defensive end L.J. Collier, considered by many to be a mid-round talent. After dealing star defensive end Clark to the Chiefs, Seattle has a ways to go to build a formidable pass rush.
Draft-day trades continued to escalate.
Over the past few seasons, GMs have shown more of a willingness to trade, and that was on display again during this year’s draft. There were 39 draft-day trades as teams showed decisiveness in giving up draft choices or players to move up and select a player they wanted.
Included in this trend was playoff teams looking to move out of the first round. Seven teams from last year’s playoffs traded away their first-round picks, and it’s easy to see why. Most teams give first-round grades to only 15 to 20 prospects, and if those players are all off the board by the time a team is selecting in the mid to late 20s, usually that team would rather move back and collect additional picks.
“If you analyze the data,” Los Angeles Rams GM Les Snead said, “really good football players are in the second and third rounds. But when you’re picking 28, it’s not a lot of difference between 28 and, let’s call it, 34.”
The Bears, Cowboys, Chiefs and Saints traded their first-round picks before the draft. The Seahawks, having added a first-rounder from Kansas City, dealt theirs away draft night with two moves back. The Colts and Rams also opted to trade their first-rounders for additional picks.
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