2019 NFL Draft: How Cowboys, Bears, Browns and Saints can have successful drafts without first-round picks
Let's take a look at how the four teams without a first-round pick can still have strong drafts
Four teams currently do not have a first-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft -- the Chicago Bears, Cleveland Browns, New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys.
Those clubs used their 2019 firsts to acquire Khalil Mack (Bears), Odell Beckham Jr. (Browns), Marcus Davenport (Saints), and Amari Cooper (Cowboys), so in a way, that quartet can be viewed as the Round 1 selections for those teams. Impressive group. And, yes, Davenport's going to be stud.
All is not lost for those teams draft-wise, but the respective GMs (and scouting departments) do have their work cut out for them. Let's map out how the Bears, Browns, Saints, and Cowboys can still have successful draft hauls this year.
As for the actual draft, you'll be able to stream our live coverage right here on CBS Sports HQ (or download the CBS Sports app for free on any mobile or connected TV device) breaking down all the picks and everything you need to know during draft weekend.
READ THIS: Before I begin, I feel compelled to include a preface. In theory, every team should always be doing whatever it can to acquire more draft picks. More rolls at the table will, over time, equal more "hits" on draft picks. But NFL teams aren't always (see: usually) operated that way. And that's not a dig on the intelligence of front offices. NFL stands for National Football League but could also stand for "Not For Long." Coaches, scouts, GMs, and players have to produce and produce quickly or they're gone. It can't always be about the long game. The five-year rebuilding process no longer exists. Ask Sashi Brown or Reggie McKenzie.
Three of the four teams featured in this article have fewer than the standard seven selections in this draft -- the Browns have eight. And after making colossal trades, and with promising quarterbacks on rookie deals, all four are squarely in "win now" mode, which really perpetually applies to the entire league for reasons I mentioned above but is a phrase used to describe teams that can reasonably expect to be in the playoffs in the upcoming season. For example, Bears GM Ryan Pace is thinking much less about the 2020 and 2021 campaigns than Dolphins GM Chris Grier is.
Therefore, "trade back" would be the easy but not exactly correct analysis for these clubs.
Draft objectives: Find a feature back, reinforcements on the edge and at guard
Draft capital: Five picks - Round 3, 4, 5, 7, 7
First pick: Round 3, No. 87 overall
The Bears are close. I really believe that. Close to what, you ask? The NFC title game or the Super Bowl. After all, they were about as close as you can get to moving onto the divisional round of the playoffs a few months ago.
And regarding Trubisky ... no, he didn't take a gigantic step forward in Year 2. He did improve, through, and from his college days to right now, he's started just 39 games. Baker Mayfield started 40 games at Oklahoma from 2015 to 2017. And Matt Nagy's scheme is very quarterback friendly. I think he'll be fine.
As for the entire roster, Chicago doesn't have glaring holes, except in the backfield. After the Jordan Howard trade, the top of the running back group consists of free-agent signing Mike Davis, a decent player, and lightning bug Tarik Cohen. With that first pick, at No. 87 overall or even with that fourth-rounder, I'd applaud Pace for drafting someone like Alabama's thunderous runner Damien Harris or Nebraska's bendy power back Devine Ozigbo.
The Bears could use another quality edge rusher to take some attention off Khalil Mack. If Florida's dynamic outside speed rusher Jachai Polite falls all the way to Round 3, he'd be a home-run pick for Chicago. So would TCU's powerful, compact, hand-use master L.J. Collier or Alabama's explosive, lengthy outside linebacker Christian Miller.
Chicago's starting offensive line is solid from tackle to tackle. However, Kyle Long will be 31 in December. The depth behind him (and second-year blocker James Daneis) at guard is minimal. Pace needs to invest there, too, even if it's in the later rounds.
Draft objectives: Fortify the safety and cornerback positions, add defensive tackle and offensive line depth
Draft capital: Eight picks - Round 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 5, 6, 7
First pick: Round 2, No. 49 overall
Fortunately for the Browns, this safety class is loaded with second- and third-round prospects. Sure, someone like Mississippi State's Johnathan Abram, or Delaware's Nasir Addereley, or my personal favorite, Virginia's Juan Thornhill, could get snagged in Round 1. But the majority of the top of this position group should fly off the board on Day 2.
Florida's half corner/half safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson would be an exquisite pick for the Browns at No. 49. He's comfortable covering the slot, flashed awesome range in center field and has impressive size at just under 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds with 4.48 speed. Alabama's rangy, hard-hitting safety Deionte Thompson is intriguing after the first round, and Washington's Taylor Rapp is as well-rounded as they come. If one of those safeties are the pick in Round 2 for the Browns, John Dorsey would've done good work.
If the GM who adores his gray, standard issue Cleveland Browns sweatshirt decides to go cornerback, Penn State's Amani Oruwariye or Michigan State's Justin Layne, both long, physical outside cornerbacks with impressive twitch and ball skills, would formulate a stellar tandem with 2018's No. 4 overall pick Denzel Ward, who had a strong rookie season.
After that, a defensive tackle to occasionally spell Larry Ogunjobi and/or newly acquired Sheldon Richardson should be a top priority. Arizona State's long, dynamic mover Renell Wren, who has subpar lateral agility but an excellent first step, would be an awesome pick in Round 3. UCF's high-motor defensive tackle Trysten Hill would be logical there too.
In the later rounds, depth on the interior offensive line has to be addressed. With five third-day picks, Cleveland could maneuver up the board if they feel so compelled to get developmental blockers. Sure, there'll be fillers who could ultimately become important players, but the defensive backfield, interior defensive line, and offensive line must be emphasized in this draft for Cleveland.
New Orleans Saints
Draft objectives: Offensive line depth, more receivers, edge rush
Draft capital: Six picks - Round 2, 5, 6, 6, 7, 7
First pick: Round 2, No. 62 overall
New Orleans' offensive line has somewhat quietly been a top unit for the past two seasons. There's just not much depth behind the two starting guards -- Andrus Peat and Larry Warford -- and Nick Easton, the free-agent signee with the unenviable job of replacing Max Unger at center, is far from a sure thing.
The Saints' decision-makers have a rough go of it, with the team's first pick coming at No. 62, then not another choice for more than 100 picks -- No. 168 overall. Boston College's Chris Lindstrom, a fundamentally sound guard with tackle feet, would be a fantastic get at No. 62. Other interior blocking possibilities who'd be good picks: Charlotte's Nate Davis or Arkansas' Hjalte Froholdt.
Even after moving up for Davenport in Round 1 a year ago, and with Cam Jordan one of the NFL's best, most complete defensive ends in the NFL, another pass-rusher would be sensible -- even if the Saints have to trade those extra late-round selections to move up from No. 168 to get him. Eastern Michigan's impressive athlete Maxx Crosby, Miami's power defensive end Joe Jackson, who'd bolster the run defense and provide an occasional pressure on the quarterback, are reasonable options late on Day 2 or early on Day 3.
Texas' impossibly long defensive end Charles Omenihu would provide another mismatch on the outside beyond Davenport. Finally freed to get upfield most of the time in 2018, the nearly 6-6, 280 pound with incredibly lengthy 36-inch arms flashed as a pass-rusher and has the size to win inside.
Draft objectives: Talented backup to Ezekiel Elliott, long-term answer at tight end
Draft capital: Six picks - Round 2, 3, 4, 4, 5, 7
First pick: Round 2, No. 58 overall
Elliott averages the sixth-most rushing yards per game (101.2) through his first three seasons in NFL history.
However, over the past 10 years, his 915 carries to start a career through three seasons are the third-most behind Alfred Morris and Chris Johnson.
Zeke needs a reliable backup. To me, that position should absolutely be on the table in the second round at No. 58 overall. Penn State's Miles Sanders, a bouncy, balanced back, would pair wonderfully with Elliott. If Dallas wants a runner with comparable style to its ground-game star, Iowa State's David Montgomery, though not as powerful as Zeke of course, just might be the pick. Maybe a round or two later, Oklahoma State's speedster Justice Hill would complement Elliott very well and would be a real asset in the screen game.
Even with Jason Witten returning for one more season and project-y types like Blake Jarwin, Rico Gathers, and Dalton Schultz on the roster, I wouldn't hate the Cowboys landing a tight end on Day 2 or early Day 3. Texas A&M's Jace Sternberger proved to be a capable intermediate target with impressive yards-after-the-catch skills for the Aggies in 2018. He'd be a quality add to the Cowboys' roster. San Diego State's Kahale Warring, a tall tight end with above-average athletic traits and plenty of experience in-line as a blocker, could be a sponge learning from Witten and become one of the better players at his position in the league in a few years.
Defensive backfield is a trendy option for the Cowboys, but with Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, Jourdan Lewis, Anthony Brown, Jeff Heath, and newly signed George Illoka already roaming in the secondary, the Cowboys are probably just about all set at corner and safety. Would a fifth-round defensive back hurt? Of course not. I just don't think it's a huge necessity for Dallas in this draft.
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