2019 NFL Draft superlatives: The breakout late-round receiver, the immediate game-changer and more prospect awards
Which late-round WR could be the next Antonio Brown? Who'll live up to the hype like Quenton Nelson? Let's take a look
Superlatives -- they're the thing from high school yearbooks that people are most likely to remember years and years later. In your yearbook did you win "most likely to succeed"? Well, you totally should have. And for this year's draft, there will be plenty to remember -- just ask Tom Brady if people have ever stopped talking about where he was selected all the way back in 2000.
With that in mind, it's time to hand out some superlatives for the 2019 NFL Draft class.
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.
Quenton Nelson Award: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama
Highly touted prospect who'll instantly live up to the hype
Quinnen Williams is 6-foot-3, 303 pounds and can run 40 yards in 4.83 seconds. In terms of his physically freakish abilities, running fast in a straight line ranks near the bottom of the list. Williams, who didn't play as a true freshman at Alabama and was behind Da'Ron Payne (a Redskins first-rounder in 2018), was the most dominant player in college football last season.
How dominant? Among all FBS defensive linemen, Williams ranked first in Pro Football Focus' pass-rush productivity and run stop percentage metrics.
Put another way: No matter the situation, he was just about unstoppable, in part because Williams has one of the quickest first steps in this draft class. He was perpetually in the backfield last season. He's a pocket-collapser with unmatched athleticism who regularly defeats double-teams and makes a legit case to be the first player taken in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Barring the unforeseen, Williams won't go first overall but it's hard to imagine he gets out of the top 5 even if teams selecting there have bigger needs at EDGE rusher or elsewhere. Williams is a special talent who will be a difference-maker from Day 1.
Antonio Brown Award: Stanley Morgan Jr., WR, Nebraska
Late-round receiver most likely to become an All-Pro
Nebraska's Stanley Morgan Jr. doesn't have many of the physical attributes that makes Antonio Brown so incredibly special but consider that this was part of Brown's scouting report coming out of Central Michigan back in 2010: "Route-running skills could use some refinement. Needs to become more consistent catching the ball in a crowd."
Put another way: Nobody could have predicted that a sixth-rounder who probably came out a year too early would become one of the best players in the league.
Morgan doesn't have Brown's athleticism, but his combine numbers are eerily similar; he ran a 4.53 40-yard time (vs. Brown's 4.47), a 6.78 3-cone drill (vs. Brown's 6.98) and a 4.13 shuttle time (vs. Brown's 4.18). He's also two inches taller, 15 pounds heavier and has longer arms and bigger hands.
Morgan should go on Day 2 but don't be surprised if he slips to Day 3. The team that lands him will be getting one of the best route-runners in this draft class who excels at contested catches and is an under-the-radar deep threat (he ranked third in FBS last season with 17 deep pass receptions, according to Pro Football Focus).
Travis Frederick Award: Chase Winovich, EDGE, Michigan
Most likely to be considered a reach on draft day, then regarded as a fantastic pick two years later
Michigan's Chase Winovich is a first-round talent. Yes, a lot of the predraft conversations have been about the "truly elite" pass rushers -- Nick Bosa, Brian Burns, Montez Sweat, Clelin Ferrell and Winovich's college teammate Rashan Gary. You can throw Jachai Polite's name into the mix if you're willing to overlook his forgettable combine and pro day.
But here's the thing: Winovich deserves to be mentioned with those names above, and when the first round concludes Michigan could have three defensive players off the board -- Gary, Winovich and Devin Bush. He's not the athlete of Gary or Bush -- few are -- but Winovich did blaze a 4.59 40-time at the combine.
More importantly, his relentless motor and physical style will translate well to the next level. He had just five sacks last season but had 14 QB hits and 34 QB hurries. Winovich also excels against the run; he ranked No. 2 in FBS in run-stop percentage, according to Pro Football Focus.
Day 2 is when Winovich will likely hear his name called, but if he slips into Round 1 don't be surprised.
Andrew Whitworth Award: Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State
His tape is boring because he just blocks everyone
Risner's been an NFL prospect for more than two years now, after he made the switch from center to right tackle following the 2015 season.
There's not a whole lot that's flashy about his game. Well, except the mean streak that pops every game. Risner doesn't have gargantuan length, he's not an elite-level athlete (though he's not a poor athlete either), and he isn't overwhelmingly powerful.
He plays the tackle spot boringly. The same balanced footwork, patient, accurate punch, and vice-like grip once he latches on essentially every snap. Another aspect of Risner's game I love: the wherewithal and ability to recover in the rare occasions when he's been beaten. He never gives up on a play and is ready to match NFL-caliber speed-to-power conversions on the outside.
Sure, he could move inside to guard or even man the center spot at the next level. But this man put three years of high-quality tackle play on film. Risner is NFL-ready with a high floor, and like Whitworth, you can plug him on at the tackle spot and forget about it for a long time.
Phillip Lindsay Award: Kerrith Whyte, RB, Florida Atlantic
Most likely to be the next surprisingly good undrafted free-agent running back
I labeled Whyte one of theDevin Singletary.earlier this week. I mean, to have two Florida Atlantic running backs picked in the same draft would be really be something, and he was the clear No. 2 to
Whyte's running style actually reminds me of Lindsay's. He's a smaller, lower-to-the-ground back with a dynamic slashing style and the downfield afterburners capable of generating big plays. Impressive contact balance is there too. Tiny backs who repeatedly go down on first contact have trouble sticking on an NFL roster.
Now, of course, Whyte may not land in a situation as advantageous as the one Lindsay found himself in with the Broncos a season ago, on a team without an established veteran or sparkly first or second-round rookie on the roster.
He averaged 6.4 yards per attempt on 134 carries in 2018 and has the skill set to waaaaay outperform when he's scooped up by an NFL team. Without much buzz entering the draft, he's a decent bet to go undrafted.
Christian Ponder Award: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
Quarterback who'll go much earlier than he should
Jones brings more to the field than Ponder did. He's a better athlete too. I just get an eerie Ponder vibe from the Duke signal-caller. Remember, back in the 2011 draft that featured a collection of future Hall of Famers in Round 1 with future busts at the quarterback spot sprinkled around them, this was the book on Ponder:
Checks height/weight/arm strength boxes. Pro-style offense in college. Lower completion percentage than you'd like. Panics under pressure. High-floor prospect who can be coached up to be a franchise quarterback ... or so many thought.
That's exactly what I assume the consensus summarized scouting report is on Jones, and many NFL teams probably love the fact he's learned under David Cutcliffe, the man who coached Peyton Manning and Tennessee and Eli Manning at Ole Miss.
The under-pressure issues really concern me. As does his tendency to throw the ball into precarious situations while off balance. At this point too, we're all expecting Jones to go in the top half of the first round. Heck, he could even be the second quarterback selected after Kyler Murray, given the speculation that Dwayne Haskins isn't as highly regarded in team draft rooms as he's been among the media and fans over the past few months.
In a get-it-out-quickly system behind a stellar offensive line, Jones can be serviceable. In fairness, Ponder wasn't afforded those luxuries in Minnesota with the Vikings. But in a few years we'll be wondering how in the world the Duke passer went so early in this draft.
Damon Harrison Award: Khalen Saunders, DT, Western Illinois
Small-school deep sleeper who'll have a long NFL career
Nasir Adderley, the springy safety from Delaware, would've been the easy choice here. Instead, I'll go a tad bit deeper with Saunders, the outrageously gifted defensive tackle in a nose tackle's body from Western Illinois.
Saunders can get a little lazy at times and play high. After being exposed to NFL strength and conditioning, he'll be fine in that regard. When he flips it on though, look out. We're talking about a 6-foot-1, 324-pound dancing bear with a lightning-quick first step, spin move, active hands, and insane closing speed for his size.
Because of his girth, teams will like how he naturally eats blockers, and a smart defensive coordinator will give him opportunities to attack upfield. He dispatches blocks against the run with ease and works through interior linemen en route to the quarterback with much more than just a low-center-of-gravity bull rush -- which, by the way, is pretty effective too.
Saunders dominated the FCS level with 14 sacks and 25 tackles for loss over the past two seasons, then was the most unblockable interior defensive lineman at the Senior Bowl. He'll probably go on Day 2. He might fall to the early portions of Day 3. Don't care. Saunders' rare movement skills, power, and girth will all contribute to a long, solid NFL career.
Danielle Hunter Award: Anthony Nelson, EDGE, Iowa
Day 2 edge rusher who'll become a consistent double-digit sack guy
Nelson is kind of a forgotten man in this awesome edge rusher class. Heck, he's kind of the forgotten man among edge rushers from the Big 10. Nick Bosa, Rashan Gary, and Chase Winovich all have considerably more buzz than Nelson.
And that's fine. All he did at Iowa the past three seasons was rack up 31 tackles for loss and 23 sacks, and each of his yearly figures in both of those stat categories increased all three years.
Then, at the combine, the 6-foot-7, 271-pounder, who just turned 22 in March, crushed his workout, and not many noticed. His 40-yard dash was in the 74th percentile at the defensive line position. His vertical? 87th percentile. Broad jump? 82nd percentile. Ever-important three cone, 92nd percentile. Short shuttle, also the 92nd percentile. Because of his height and weight, Nelson can kick inside and destroy compact guard with his length and athleticism.
He must get stronger at the next level. The vast majority of players in the trenches do once they hit the professional ranks, so I'm not worried about that. Nelson already has an advanced arsenal of pass-rushing maneuvers and sets a sturdy edge against the run.
Hunter went in Round 3 of the 2015 draft as a tall, athletic edge rusher. He's probably slightly more physically capable than Nelson, but the Iowa standout will enter the NFL with more polish than Hunter did.
Trent Brown Award: Fred Johnson, OL, Florida
Gigantic offensive guard who'll be a better tackle in the NFL
This award isn't presented often, because rarely does a collegiate guard kick out to tackle in the pros. Brown did it, and boy did it ever pay off for him. From seventh-round pick of the 49ers, to a one-year contract with the Patriots, to a mammoth contract with the Raiders that featured $36.25 million guaranteed at signing.
And Johnson is a lot like Brown was as a prospect coming out of the same school, though not quite as big. But context is key here. Brown was 6-foot-8 and 355 pounds with 36-inch arms at his combine. Johnson measured in just above 6-foot-7 and 326 pounds with 34-inch arms, so he's not exactly a tiny human being either.
As you can probably expect with someone as gigantic as Johnson, he's not going to win the quickness battle against defensive tackles. He does overpower just about everyone and is a towering wrecking ball in the run game, even when he has to get out to the second level.
There's an outside chance his coaches think his size, length, power, and relatively good feet would be a better fit on the outside than against twitchy defensive tackles who can get underneath his pads or simply "out-quick" him. I think that's the best move for Johnson too, and I believe his best football is in front of him.
Terrell Edmunds Award: Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State
Prospect whose combine performance will lead to him being a surprise first-round pick
Campbell's combine is the main reason I have a feeling he'll land in the first round. I mean, a 4.31 40-yard dash at just under 6-foot and 205 pounds is absolutely bananas. And it's not that Campbell is a bad football player totally undeserving of going in Round 1. It's just that he's more raw as a route-runner than most first-round pass catchers, and he wasn't asked to do much at Ohio State outside of the short/gadget game.
Back to Campbell's combine: He also had a 40-inch vertical, a 135-inch broad jump (98th percentile) and 4.03 short-shuttle time (90th) percentile.
In a league that's being more and more YAC-predicated, Campbell is entering the pros at the perfect time, and he kinda/sorta flew under the radar all draft season. No, he didn't cruise as stealthily as Terrell Edmunds did last year, but there's a good chance the explosive Buckeyes receiver is one of the draft-night surprises in the back end of Round 1 like Edmunds was last April.
Pick Six Newsletter
Get the day's big stories + fun stuff you love like mock drafts, picks and power rankings.
Thanks for signing up!
Keep an eye on your inbox for the latest sports news.
There was an error processing your subscription.
We loved these players as 2018 prospects, and now they've got the opportunity for a big 20...
It's never to early to look ahead to the 2020 class
Our super-early look at the 2020 NFL Draft features plenty of prospects to put on your watchlist...
These prospects were picked on Day 3 but have the talent and opportunity to surprise in Year...
These veterans may have seen their team draft their future replacement
The Bengals begin a new era with Herbert, and the strength of the receiver class shows ear...