While football enthusiasts may be forced to endure a stretch without meaningful football in the summer, there is an entirely different way to support the league’s franchises – the 2019 NFL Draft.
Like clockwork, major networks round up their most well-known and charismatic personalities to pontificate each year’s draft board.However, as analysts and experts often find out, it is difficult to predict each year how the draft will shake out.
The problem with predicting a team’s ideal draft-target is that no one truly knows the value of one position to another for an individual franchise. There can be speculation and educated-guesses on the matter, but, unless you are speaking to a team-executive, a guess is just that.
It is also incredibly rare that a player is the consensus No. 1 overall selection. Andrew Luck and possibly Peyton Manning were clear-cut exceptions to this. However, in year’s past, fans were left guessing until the commissioner took the podium.
So, how should we gauge the 2019 NFL Draft if there’s no surefire way of knowing who will be taken first? Pay close attention to the first five picks and the rest will fall into place.
This year the draft order, without any trades, will be as follows: Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and so on.
What makes 2019 a special draft class is the unclear intentions that sit with the franchise that owns the No. 1 pick, the Cardinals.
Last year, Arizona packaged assets to move up and select UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen. Following a lackluster rookie performance, the team elected to move in a new direction by hiring Kliff Kingsbury as head coach. Soon after, rumors spread like wildfire that Kingsbury could have his eye set on another signal caller altogether.
Heisman trophy winner Kyler Murray will be a pivotal player to watch in this year’s draft. The Oklahoma product is trying to do what his predecessor, Baker Mayfield, was able to accomplish and be drafted first overall. Kingsbury has been on record as a fan of Murray’s dynamic style of play and superstar potential at the next level.
Unfortunately for Kingsbury, the Cardinals are more than just a quarterback away from competing for a Super Bowl. This draft class is stacked from top to bottom with defensive talent, and Arizona is desperate for production on that side of the football. Who is to say that Ohio State’s Nick Bosa or Alabama’s Quinnen Williams can’t go No. 1.
Moving past Arizona, the 49ers and Jets have both vocalized a willingness to trade back and accumulate more picks in the draft. Both franchises have been searching for an edge rusher to help turn the tides of their respective divisions.
No one is entirely sure who the 49ers have atop their big board and the same could be said for New York. If the Cardinals take the 49ers’ guy, San Francisco could possibly trade back. That could leave the door open for the Jets to select a premier player at the position. It could also entice them to trade back if they, too, had their gaze fixed on a particular edge rusher.
In the last few weeks, the Oakland Raiders and head coach John Gruden have expressed interest in Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver. The “undersized” Oliver has drawn comparisons to Pro Bowler Aaron Donald. The problem with showing your hand is the three franchises ahead paying attention to your every move.
Finally, the Buccaneers may be the biggest wildcard of them all. They are full of question marks on both sides of the ball. With such a stacked defensive class, the idea is that they will go for value there. However, cornerback to lineman to linebacker are all up for grabs.
Keep a close eye on the top five picks and you will begin to see a trend that the other teams inevitably follow. Take top defensive talent early, and the others will reach for the same. The hope is that another franchise will not beat them to the punch.
Anthony Talarico can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @ant_tal.