After three days of picks the 2019 NFL Draft is in the books, and that means it's time to hand out some hardware for the winners and losers. In two or three years -- and maybe two or three months -- these will probably look stupid. It's difficult to find a bunch of losers in this draft too, because of the deep nature of the class available to the teams.
People with a lot of second and third round picks managed to excel because of the depth. And several teams really increased their chances of winning or making a playoff run in 2019. Other individuals were helped too.
Let's dive in and look at a few that really stood out.
Steve Keim's been a hot-button front office guy over the last few weeks/months thanks to the focus on Kyler Murray vs. Josh Rosen. We haven't seen anyone in modern NFL history select quarterbacks in the top 10 in back-to-back drafts and it's led to people questioning the Cardinals GM. There shouldn't be any questions after the Cardinals reeled in an incredible 2019 NFL Draft class, though. It's difficult to evaluate what they did in a vacuum; dumping Josh Rosen, a top-10 pick a year ago, for No. 62 in this draft is a brutal L to take. Not being able to grab Nick Bosa or Quinnen Williams with that first pick. The draft will ultimately hinge on Kyler and how he plays, even in his first season. If Murray struggles and Rosen goes down to Miami and wins some games, it'll be a bad look.
But step back from the idea of Murray vs. Rosen for a minute, look at this draft class and try not to be impressed. Keim and the Cardinals killed it. Kyler was the top QB prospect in this class. Kliff Kingsbury loves him. You have to be optimistic about what this offense can look like, especially compared to 2019. Byron Murphy was arguably the best cornerback in this class and the Cardinals got him at the top of the second round. They used the Rosen pick to land UMass receiver Andy Isabella, who should make life easier for Murray and work well in the Air Raid scheme, especially with Christian Kirk on the field as well. The Cardinals got good value with Zach Allen at the beginning of the third round and then continued getting Murray weapons in the fourth with the surprising drop of Hakeem Butler. Life after Larry Fitzgerald is coming and a receiving corps of Butler, Kirk and Isabella is extremely intriguing. Add in KeeSean Johnson out of Fresno and the Cardinals have a bright future at the position. Deionte Thompson is a good fit with Buddha Baker and D.J. Swearinger for that defensive backfield.
The NFC West is going to be really, really difficult in 2019, even more so if the 49ers make a leap. Expecting the Cardinals to somehow magically morph into a wild-card contender after being clearly the worst team in football last year is clearly a stretch. But if Kyler can succeed as a rookie, this is a team that can make a massive improvement on its win total.
New England Patriots
It's not like the Patriots coach/GM needs another award on his wall, but if you were handing out a trophy for the best haul in this draft class, the Patriots might well get the hardware. If you build in a curve based on New England starting with the last pick of the first round, it's even easier to make a case, although having roughly 450 picks in the second and third rounds certainly helps. The Pats stood ... pat in the first round at No. 32, which was a surprise given Belichick's penchant for dealing down, and landed N'Keal Harry out of Arizona State. He's a great complement to Julian Edelman, Philip Dorsett and the weapons New England currently has on its depth chart. Joejuan Williams out of Vandy was the captain of Pete Prisco's Better Than Team and Chase Winovich out of Michigan might very well end up being better than Rashan Gary, who was taken two rounds earlier by the Packers. Damien Harris is a downhill destruction machine who can go from Nick Saban to Bill Belichick, ensuring the Patriots plan to pound the rock won't be derailed if Sony Michel suffers an injury. Hjalte Froholdt was my pre-draft favorite to rule Westeros at the end of this Game of Thrones season, so hard not to like him here. Jarrett Stidham is the latest in a long line of "set to replace Tom Brady" quarterbacks who the Patriots will probably flip for a second-round pick in three years. It's even hard to really criticize Belichick for taking a punter, although it was surprising they went after a guy (Jake Bailey out of Stanford) who uses his right foot.
Over the past few years we've seen certain college programs get a major boost in terms of notoriety because they had a lot of players taken in the NFL Draft. Alabama and Clemson stand out, obviously. Add Oklahoma to the list courtesy of a ridiculous group in the 2019 NFL Draft. Kyler Murray is the second straight Heisman Trophy winner Riley's produced and now he's the second straight No. 1 overall pick taken out of Oklahoma. Marquise Brown was also a first-round pick, going as the first wide receiver off the board to the Ravens, a guy who should be able to make a major impact in his first year with Baltimore. And then we got a ridiculous run from the Sooners, with a silly run on offensive linemen coming between the second round and fourth round. The Bills traded up for Cody Ford at 38th overall, the Rams snagged Bobby Evans at 97th on the second day of the draft and then the Seahawks grabbed Dru Samia in the fourth round and the Ravens scooped up Ben Powers with the 123rd overall pick. The 2019 NFL Draft is basically a billboard for Riley and his program: if you want to have a shot at dominating on offense and being selected by an NFL team, come to Norman and play football.
It was a rough run for the former first-round pick, but at the end of the day he landed in a spot where they're rebuilding and would love to see him end up becoming their franchise quarterback. There's minimal pressure in Miami despite all the scrutiny over the last few weeks. He got done dirty by Arizona, but he handled everything with incredible class. It's hard not to root for Rosen right now.
The Ravens quarterback entered the draft with the worst wide receiver corps in the NFL and left with Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin as guys he can throw to and grow with. I expect some bumps along the road for this offense, and I don't know if it's going to be the most explosive option out there, but Jackson can be a franchise passer. He just needed some weapons. Kudos to Eric DeCosta for managing his first draft well and making sure he put some high-powered options around his quarterback.
A couple different problems here for Gettleman, even though I generally like his overall draft (especially the predictable nature with which he took Dexter Lawrence; I mean that in a good way). One, the haul for Odell Beckham is hard to justify. The Giants got Lawrence, Oshane Ximines and Jabrill Peppers for Odell. In no world do you make that straight up trade. You just don't. Two, the Giants drafted Daniel Jones and we don't know when he's going to play. Gettleman said Jones could sit behind Eli Manning for THREE YEARS which is probably just him saying stuff maybe? Giants fans should hope so -- if you spend the No. 6 overall pick on someone and they're not playing within three years because Eli is still able to trot out there in the same fashion he has for the last year or so, that's a real problem. I think Giants ownership is giving Gettleman a long leash here, but it was confusing to hear him say he fell in love with Jones after three series at the Senior Bowl. It reeks of an ownership push to get a quarterback and a fear of missing him later. Maybe other teams had high grades on Jones. But if the pick doesn't pan out, this draft is an unmitigated disaster and it will all be put on Gettleman's head. That's a pretty massive risk.
It's hard for me to get past their first round pick and how close they came to landing Andre Dilliard, only to be sniped by the Philadelphia Eagles trading up and grabbing the Washington State tackle one pick in front of Houston. Deshaun Watson is clearly a transcendent franchise quarterback, but he has to be able to stay on the field if the Texans want to win. And the offensive line was one of the worst in football last year. Can Tytus Howard come from Alabama State and be an instant-impact starter? The same question could be asked of second-round pick Max Scharping out of Northern Illinois. It's not that these were bad picks, it's just that the run setup well for the Texans to grab a top-tier offensive lineman and they got potential targets yanked out from under them. I like the move to get Lonnie Johnson in the second round and Kahale Warring out of San Diego State is a nice upside-filled tight end as a third-round pick. Charles Omenihu from Texas was great value in the fifth round. I don't hate the picks. I just get worried about the ability of the Texans to protect Watson moving forward and the negative impact that could have on their 2019 season.
Loved this call from Bryant McFadden on our HQ show -- Detroit drafted a tight end in the first round for the third time in the last decade, with T.J. Hockenson joining Brandon Pettigrew and Eric Ebron on a list that would not be described as illustrious. Jahlani Tavai out of Hawaii helps as a linebacker (I thought they could have gone Devin Bush in the first round) and I don't necessarily dislike their picks. But I'm confused as to what their identity is moving forward. Are the Lions going to pound the rock while paying Matthew Stafford massive amounts of money? Are they going to line up three tight ends and try to feed Kerryon Johnson? Even if it all works out they have to do it in a division where the Packers got demonstrably better (Rashan Gary, Darnell Savage in the first round alone) and the Vikings added a center (Garrett Bradbury) who could ignite their running game and Dalvin Cook's one-cut, zone-running potential. The NFC North is tough and the Lions just didn't feel like they had the sauce they needed from this draft.
The Panthers franchise quarterback is heading towards a time in which there will be some decisions made. He has two years left on his deal, he'll want a massive Russell Wilson-style contract, he's coming off two shoulder surgeries in three years and the Panthers a) didn't add any weapons for him and b) added Will Grier with the 100th overall pick. I think it's a good move for the Panthers and I like what Marty Hurney did in their draft. But if Newton is slow to recover or struggles, there will be calls for Grier to get out on the field. He's a gun-slinging local product the fans are going to fall in love with. Adding Greg Little was great and helps Cam (or Grier?), but there could be an interesting point in the near future for Cam where things get awkward with Carolina. Maybe he recovers quickly and this all sounds dumb in a few months, but it feels like this could be an inflection point.