The 2019 NFL Draft starts Thursday night and no one knows what will happen once that clock starts rolling. With that in mind, it’s time to make some predictions for what will happen during Thursday night’s first round.
I was joined by The Big Lead’s other resident NFL draft nerd, Liam McKeone, to answer some pressing questions heading into the big night.
Who goes No. 1 overall?
Phillips: It’s going to be Kyler Murray. All reports about the Arizona Cardinals aiming away from Murray have been a smokescreen. I think Kliff Kingsbury is in love and wants Murray. You don’t hire that guy to get his offensive system in place then not give him the quarterback he wants. It would make no sense.
McKeone: I mean, it has to be Kyler, right? I don’t think there’s any chance someone else heads up to the podium first. Josh Rosen didn’t get a fair shake his rookie year, but Murray’s ceiling is much higher than his, and like you said, he’s Kliff Kingsbury’s guy. They may have to settle on what they get for Rosen, but if even 10 percent of the reports coming out of Arizona have any truth to them, the Cardinals think he’s their guy.
Where will Kyler Murray land?
Phillips: Arizona. He’s not dropping.
McKeone: On draft night, he’s absolutely going to Arizona. There’s a remote chance he doesn’t end the night a Cardinal, though. I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that they’ve been pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes, and have been hyping up Murray to trade him for a huge load of draft picks. But it’s very unlikely, so I’ll agree and say he lands in Arizona.
Phillips: Again, agreement. This marriage just makes too much sense.
Which team will be the first to trade up?
McKeone: Atlanta. Thomas Dimitroff isn’t afraid to get aggressive on draft night (see: Jones, Julio), and he’s familiar with fellow ex-Patriot Bob Quinn in Detroit at the eight spot. The Falcons need to rebound this season, and grabbing a top defensive prospect by moving up six picks would be worth the price, depending on who’s available.
Phillips: I could see that, and the Falcons might move up for a lineman on either side of the ball, but I’m not going to agree. The Washington Redskins will be the first team to move up.
Daniel Snyder has reportedly taken over the draft process and he’ll be aggressive (possibly over-aggressive) to get the guy he wants. It is almost certainly a quarterback and more than likely it’ll be Dwayne Haskins. He’ll have to get into the top five to do that, so it’ll happen early.
McKeone: It would be a classic Snyder move, that’s for sure. I don’t know if they have the ammunition, and given their acquisition of Case Keenum, they may sit back and have their pick of the second tier of QBs. But the RG3 trade proved that Snyder is willing to give up whatever he wants to get his guy.
Who will wear the best suit?
Phillips: I’m going with D.K. Melcalf. The Ole Miss wideout has a ton of flash to his game, he’ll come with something great.
McKeone: Nick Bosa. My mans hasn’t had anything else to think about since September. It won’t be loud, but it’ll be crisp. Plus, he has access to his brother’s LA tailors.
Which team in the top five will trade down?
McKeone: As you wrote just the other day, the Jets are the prime suspect. They gave up a haul to get their franchise QB in Sam Darnold, and so far it’s paid off for them. But they need to restock the draft cupboard, and someone in the 7-10 range will want in on a top six prospect.
Phillips: Yeah, I’m sticking with the Jets. The 49ers will trade down if someone gives them a ridiculous package and the Raiders probably would too, but the Jets need to. That roster has so many holes on it that making one selection at No. 3 doesn’t make near as much sense as stockpiling picks.
McKeone: It’s a trade-down draft for sure, and just about everyone will be willing to do so for the right price. But the Jets will be the most aggressive team in finding a trade, so they’ll be the first to make a move. They’re probably hoping Snyder will come calling.
Will the Patriots trade up, down or stay put?
Phillips: Trade up. This is a draft lousy with good linemen on both sides of the ball, but the top-tier guys will be gone by the time the Patriots are on the clock at 32. I could see Bill Belichick moving up to the middle of the first round (15 to 20) to get the guy he likes.
McKeone: I think they’ll trade up, but that range might have too steep a price for Belichick — especially after a prime trade candidate in Seattle just nabbed another first-round pick in the Frank Clark trade. It’s easy to envision a scenario where a guy Belichick likes falls to 26 or 27, and he gives up a third-rounder and a late rounder for the chance to move up, similar to how he grabbed Dont'a Hightower in 2012.
The Pats have six picks in the Top 100 this year, so they have plenty of ammunition to jump a few spots and not a lot of incentive to trade down.
Which player will go far higher than mock drafts are projecting?
McKeone: Daniel Jones was the popular answer until this week happened, so I’ll go with Byron Murphy. He’s emerged as the consensus top corner in this year’s draft, and he has the skill set to come in and make an impact immediately. He has a chance to be a top-ten selection after being tagged as a second-rounder at most at the start of draft season. He won’t last past pick 15.
Phillips: Murphy is a really nice pick, but you’re wrong, the answer is still Jones. He looks the part as a classic pocket passer and teams have been talking him up for months after he went largely ignored during his college career.
McKeone: I still think Jones ends up this year’s version of the guy who looks the part of an NFL quarterback, ends up sucking, and everyone is shocked. I just don’t see the Giants taking him at six after all Dave Gettleman said about Eli Manning and his past obsession with defensive prospects. If Jones doesn’t go there he slides out of the top 10.
Phillips: Oh, I have no problem with the idea that Jones is rising because he looks the part. His ceiling is a Matt Ryan-type guy, but his floor is extremely low. I just think someone will fall in love with him and snag him far too soon.
McKeone: Can’t argue with that- it’s easy for teams to talk themselves into a guy from Duke who had Peyton Manning’s QB coach. He checks all the boxes besides the football playing part. Despite my view of Jones, it wouldn’t be a shock if he’s who Snyder has been eyeing
Which player will unexpectedly slide during the draft?
Phillips: Late medical concerns usually freak teams out when it gets close to draft day and Rashan Gary’s shoulder woes will cause him to drop. He’s the classic case of a stud who never lived up to his physical gifts at Michigan, then tested off the charts during the draft process. That kind of guy could go either way on draft day, but the injury concerns are real and it will cause him to fall.
McKeone: The shoulder injury news was a huge blow to Gary’s stock, and he will definitely fall on draft day. But he’s a remarkable athlete, and it’ll be tough for someone to resist taking a flyer on him in the late teens.
A lot of people are pegging Christian Wilkins as a top-12 pick, but I believe he’ll slide come Thursday. He’s a first-round talent for sure, but he’s very good in a lot of areas and elite in none of them. The draft is all about potential, and there are plenty of defenders this year who could be better than Wilkins — even if his floor is higher than most. Don’t be shocked to see him still available in the mid-20s.
Phillips: Does Belichick jump on Wilkins if he drops?
McKeone: Absolutely. He’s a classic Belichick guy: he’s versatile, is always around the ball, and will become a leader on and off the field as soon as he arrives. Belichick loves jack-of-all-trade types, and that’s Wilkins to a T.
Phillips: Proper use of “to a T.” I appreciate that, Liam. I really do.
McKeone: Basically what an English degree from Fordham gave me.
Phillips: Worth every penny.
Who will be the best player from this draft class?
McKeone: I’m really high on Quinnen Williams. Nick Bosa will be a perennial double-digit sack guy, but Williams is a monster of a man who can wreck opposing gameplans like few other players in the league. Dominant defensive tackles can completely alter a team’s run and pass blocking scheme, something a classic edge rusher like Bosa or Josh Allen can’t say.
Phillips: It’s Williams for me too, he owned the SEC last year for Alabama and showed up biggest against the team’s toughest competition. He may never put up huge numbers — since that’s tough for interior lineman other than Aaron Donald — but he’s going to be someone offenses have to account for on every play.
Who wins Offensive Rookie of the Year?
McKeone: I’m going to go with Murray for Offensive Rookie of the Year. It’s a weak class on the offensive side of the ball, and every other quarterback needs at least a year on the bench before they can become effective starters. Murray is boom or bust, but I’d bet on boom. He was a special player at Oklahoma, and the questions about size are, as always, overblown.
I think his talents have been overshadowed in the wake of the Rosen situation in Arizona, and I have faith that Kliff Kingsbury can design an offense that will tailor to his unique skill set. At the very least, he’ll have the handful of mind-blowing highlights that are prerequisite for most Offensive Rookies of the Year.
Phillips: Josh Jacobs is going to win it. All of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft will need a significant transition period, while Jacobs is move-in ready. He’s a multi-dimensional running back who can do it all.
McKeone: Wow, that is indeed a bold prediction. I like Jacobs as a pass-catcher, but I don’t know if he’ll have the numbers to back up his candidacy.
Phillips: Go bold or go home. Well, I mean, technically I am at home while typing this, but whatever.
McKeone: Go bold and go home
Phillips: Already there.
Who wins Defensive Rookie of the Year?
Phillips: Josh Allen will win Defensive Rookie of the Year. He’s going to be an elite edge rusher quickly. He was amazing at Kentucky, racking up 31 sacks, 39.5 tackles for loss and 11 forced fumbles in his career. Nick Bosa will be in the mix but it will take him a while to get up to speed after spending so much time on the shelf.
McKeone: I don’t think you can go wrong with Allen, especially since he’s poised to land on a team like the Jets or Raiders who have a huge hole at the position and will be happy to let him get after the quarterback on any given play. But I’ll disagree and say that Bosa will win, for the reasons you listed — after a year on the shelf, he’ll be fresher than most. He’s also a more technically sound pass-rusher than Allen, and played against better competition when he did play.