We are nearing the end of the annual Draft Prospect player evaluations. We have watched players in game action from late August until early January. Then, over 300 prospects participated in the 3 major All-Star games in late January, and of course, we have just concluded the annual Combine in Indy. Pro Days are currently taking place all around the country, and players will be making selected team visits around the League for more interviews and light workouts. These last two items will fill in gaps in the player evaluation folders as best they can. Then NFL Personnel Departments will have to finalize their Draft Boards.
With the bulk of the heavy duty information gathering in the books, I thought I would take the final numbers from the Combine, and grade the position groups for the 2019 Draft class.
This is a tough call, especially with the wild card entry of Kyler Murray to the group. It is clearly not at the level of last year’s A group, which saw 5 QB’s taken in Round 1, with all of them starting by season’s end. It looks to me like this year’s group will see 3 players taken in Round 1; MURRAY, HASKINS, LOCK. Then another 3-4 should go in Rounds 2 & 3. Overall, I think we will be looking at 12 draftees in the QB class of 2019, with the likelihood that the only potential starters will be gone by the end of Day 2. Patience never dominates the day any more, but even with the three mentioned above chances of starting day one of the regular NFL season next Fall looks dubious, at best, for all of them.
It probably says a lot about this position group, that perhaps the only Round 1 RB will be a collegiate back-up player form Alabama named JOSH JACOBS. But I would assert, that even though there may not be a workhorse star RB in this year’s group, by the time we hit Round 3, RB’s will be flying off the Board. I count as many as 25 RB’s who could get the call in April. They come in all shapes and sizes, with multiple skill sets and specialties. Just as a side note, the best all-around RB could be Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson, but his medical history makes him a very risky pick, if you are counting on him to touch the ball 250 times, or more, per season. However, for teams looking to round out their RB stable with a guy who brings a specific specialty to your team, there is solid talent available overall.
This might be the second most talented position group, with both variety and athleticism, not to mention depth. 19 of the 48 wideouts at this year’s Combine, measured over 6’2″ tall. 7 receivers ran sub-4.40/40’s. 34 of them weighed over 200 lbs. 10 of them had hands measuring 10″ or more. We may see no more than 2-3 First Rounders from this group, but could still see at least a Bakers Dozen in the top 100 picks. Despite all the size mentioned above, there are some smallish, speedy/quick slot type guys like Isabella, Hart and Marquise Brown to choose from. Lots to see here, and draft here. Again, most of the positives of the wideout class can be credited primarily to the large number of WR entries from the underclassmen ranks.
Back in August, I was concerned that the TE group could be very weak this year, at least based on the seniors in it. Well, a few guys really picked up their games, (MOREAU, OLIVER, SAMPLE), and emerged as legit pro prospects. Then, at the end of the college season, a flood of quality underclassmen threw their names into the ring. Now, we may see 3 TE’s in Round 1 alone, in FANT, HOCKENSON and IRVIN SMITH. Now, I can visualize about a dozen TE Draftees, which greatly enhances the overall grade on this group.
This too, looks like an above average group, both in quality and volume. The only hitch here, may be the lack of elite athletes to play the edge out at the OT slots. You read and listen to OL draft talk, and hear a lot of names who personnel people indicate will be better suited to move inside to OG/C positions. However someone has to play OT, so many of these players will have to start Training Camps as OT’s, with Interior OL being the back-up plan. I don’t see more than 3-4 OL in Round One, and even in that small group, ANDRE DILLARD & JAWAAN TAYLOR may be the only sure things for an OT job. More than a few talent evaluators look at the other two likely first rounders, Jonah Williams and Cody Ford, and see them moving inside to OG. As has been the case in recent years, there is a solid group of smaller school OL, who could start in the League in a couple of seasons under pro coaching. OLI UDOH/Elon, TYTUS HOWARD/Alabama State, and TREY PIPKINS/Sioux Falls, are the best of those prospects, and good news, all of them played OT in college.
Over the coming weekend, we will take a good hard look at grades on the defensive side of the ball. Please, stay tuned.