One top DT up; others down as draft approaches … As we have lamented over the past few weeks, this draft has been characterized by an almost amazing lack of buzz. Like almost none. However, with just days to go until the actual draft gets underway, there are some rumblings about some late movement (or movement which people are just late to pick up on) at the top of the board, although of course we won’t know for sure until Thursday.
There are hints, for example, that maybe the hottest prospect right now is Houston DT Ed Oliver. Which maybe shouldn’t come as a huge surprise as for the better part of his Cougars’ career he was generally considered to be the best player period in college football. Oliver’s grade, though, took a hit this fall as he battled through a shoulder injury, faced constant double and triple teams on the field, and was involved in a messy sideline spat with his coach late in the season. However, Oliver was more like Oliver at his pro day where he indeed again looked more like the athletic second coming of Aaron Donald. What we are hearing is that Oliver appears to have emerged as a solid #4 non-QB prospect on most teams draft board after Alabama DT Quinnen Williams, Ohio State DE Nick Bosa and Kentucky OLB Josh Allen and that nobody should be too shocked if the former Cougars’ star actually is selected ahead of one of those three on Thursday.
The other thing one continues to hear is how much NFL teams like Alabama’s Williams who more than one team rates as the best pure DT to come along in a generation. The consensus is that Ohio State’s Bosa may still be the first non-QB selected this Thursday given the positional value of a quality pass rusher, but that nobody should be too surprised if Williams is ultimately selected ahead of him.
On the other hand, one of everybody’s favorite games at the draft, is “How Far will they Fall?” And there are several players who right now people around the league are wondering whether they could go significantly later than they have been projected as recently as the past couple of weeks. There are rumblings, for example, that the league in general has soured on Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins, who had been very much in the discussion to be the top QB selected early in the draft process, but is no longer considered to be even a sure top ten pick. The issues with Haskins are that while he gets the ball out quickly, he doesn’t necessarily have the strongest arm, while he isn’t very athletic at all.
At the same time, no one is quite sure how teams around the league currently view Mississippi State DE/OLB Montez Sweat. No concerns here about his productivity and athleticism. Indeed, in a perfect world Sweat would be very much in the top 5 discussion, but the medical testing at the combine revealed a mild heart condition. It wasn’t serious enough that Sweat was sent home from Indianapolis, but a heart issue is still a heart issue and there have been reports that more than one team has gone so far as to take Sweat off their board completely. And given that teams generally like their top prospects to be as clean as possible it will be interesting to see on Thursday whether these concerns are in fact shared by teams with top ten picks.
The other top prospect with whom there are some rumblings about a possible drop is Michigan DE Rashan Gary. Pound-for-pound Gary is one of the most athletic prospects in the 2019 draft, but he just never translated that athletic prowess into big numbers on the field for the Wolverines. Gary wasn’t helped by the fact he was seldom put in a position to really wreck havoc in the Michigan scheme, plus he played through a nasty shoulder injury last fall which limited his strength, but he could slide out of the top ten with so many other really productive players also available in that range.