That’s how I would define the way I feel right now. For the last ten months, it’s been nothing but studying NFL Draft prospects. It’s been awesome to turn my dream of covering the NFL Draft into a reality, and I’m sad to approach Draft day and to see this process come to an end.
At the same time, I’m extremely excited because there’s no sporting event better than the NFL Draft. I’m also excited to close my computer, escape my spreadsheet, and put away the All-22 for a few weeks. But for now, we continue to grind and we continue to prepare for the 2019 NFL Draft that will commence later this week.
Before you scroll through the board and get mad about your favorite player from your favorite school being 50 spots too high or too low, please understand that these rankings are based on my film evaluations. The BIGGEST contributor to my grades is film. I don’t interact with all of these players and I don’t have sources from every team in the league. Again, most importantly, trust the tape. Aside from the film, though, injuries and athletic testing do play a part in a player’s evaluation. If there’s an obvious off-field issue from my research, then that can hurt a player’s grade, too.
The Grading Scale
Now that we’ve gotten through that part, you can continue to bash the grades. For now, let me show you the grading scale and then we can move on to the actual big board.
The grading scale is pretty self-explanatory, but if this is your first time, let me explain. The first round falls between 100-84, and it’ll be very rare for any player to get a perfect score. As for how a player gets these grades, it comes down to where they score on each trait for their position. We could have anywhere between 8-10 traits that I look for at one position, whether it’s a quarterback going through progressions or a defensive back having good enough ball skills to make a play on the football. I’ll be the first to admit that my grading scale isn’t perfect — no grading scale is. Mine is still being ironed out, but with two years of big boarding under my belt, I feel fairly confident in my ability to know a good football player when I see one.
I’m not going to get to every single player in the 2019 NFL Draft. I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity, and this year I raised the bar for myself. Last year I ranked 160 players, and now we’re up to 200. What changed? My work ethic, the way I prepared for watching film, and when I started the film review process (much earlier). I’m not sure what next year will hold, but I’m proud of how my work for the 2019 NFL Draft has turned out! So without further ado, I give to you my 2019 NFL Draft Big Board!
The First Rounders
This group of first round players is certainly something. There are a lot of defensive players, a handful of players on the offensive line, and some shiny new toys for a quarterback. Other than that, it’s nothing splashy. They’re my kind of players — dudes in the trenches that get after each other.
At the top, Quinnen Williams is the best player in this class. He’s explosive and disruptive and is only 21 years old. With his athletic ability and blend of power and speed, he’s only going to get better. If you need an edge rusher, this is the draft to get one, too. Nick Bosa is at the top of the class for the position with his elite pass rush plan, production, and elite hand usage.
One of my favorite defensive line prospects for the entire draft is Charles Omenihu from Texas. There’s a chance he falls into the second round, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he goes in the first. His tape is worthy of first-round consideration, and he was a versatile chess piece for the Longhorns. With his length and blend of power and speed, he can be a defensive weapon for any team’s front seven. Teams like the Seahawks, Chiefs, and Colts make a ton of sense for his overall transition and fit at the next level.
The Most Common Question and Offensive Lineman
Why so low on Brian Burns? Athletically, he’s one of the most laudable players in the class. My problem is that he was used as a situational pass rusher. Don’t believe me? Check the game against Wake Forest or Florida. He’s not in on every snap, and I’m all for having a defensive line rotation, but he’s supposed to be a premier player on tape, and I just don’t see it. When you’re not giving the same effort on third down as other players, that’s concerning to me. He’s not as good stopping the run as the players listed above him, and he’s not a high motor player unless he wants to be. I do have concerns about his weight; I’m not afraid to admit that. He was never listed at 249 pounds at Florida State, and I don’t believe he’ll stay at that weight when he gets to the next level. He looked great at the Scouting Combine at 249 pounds, but I think he’ll drop some weight and I think that will hurt his play. He’ll go round one, but he shouldn’t be one of the first edge rushers off the board, in my opinion.
Moving to the offensive line, what’s not to love? This is a great group at offensive tackle, and putting Garrett Bradbury in there is just the cherry on top for an interior offensive lineman. Bradbury plays with a nasty side and at 304 pounds, he looks somewhat “maxed out” from a weight perspective. That hurts him overall when he anchors, but despite losing ground off the snap, he recovers well and is a smooth operator in space. He’s a safe pick and should provide teams with the plug-and-play ability that’s coveted in interior offensive linemen.
Jonah Williams from Alabama is the cleanest offensive tackle in this class, and it’s a bonus that he’s a left tackle. He’s one of the more technically sound offensive linemen I’ve watched over the last two years, and he’s going to give a team everything he’s got. Length will concern some people, but he’s battle tested and will prove people wrong. Play him at left tackle to begin his career and go from there; I’ll be shocked if it doesn’t work out. I don’t do pro comps, but I can’t help but think of Joe Thomas when I watch Williams.
Second Round Cluster
You know that feeling when you pour yourself a bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats and you get a big pile of those honey roasted clusters on top? Think of these second rounders like that. It’s honestly the only way I can describe this group. It’s a cluster of players that have all have an insane amount of talent and, in the words of Dak Prescott, “they’re oh, so good.” I’m talking about 40 . . . 4-0 . . . players who are second-round-worthy in the 2019 NFL Draft. This group is that good.
Paying a Premium for Quarterbacks
Starting with the quarterbacks because that’s why you’re really here, I like this group of signal callers, but I don’t love them. Dwayne Haskins should be the first quarterback on the board, but it’s close. He’s not as mobile as you’d like him to be, but he’s accurate, makes good decisions with the football, and is a lot farther ahead in pre-snap reads than I thought when watching him live a few times this season. The one year of production scares me, and playing in an Ohio State system that loves to utilize gadget players underneath and in the short areas of the field scares me a little bit, too. Overall, Haskins looks poised and should sit on the bench his first season. There’s no reason to believe that he falls out of the first round, and I think the Giants would make a huge mistake by passing on him. Other teams that make sense for him are the Bengals and the Dolphins.
So, let me guess, Kyler Murray? Certainly, he’s the most dynamic quarterback in this class and the most polarizing player in the entire draft. That doesn’t net him extra points on the grading scale, but you can tell he’s not that far behind Haskins. He’s got a strong arm and throws with ease with his quick, natural release. His mobility is a huge plus, and he’s going to make a lot of plays with his feet, especially if he’s playing behind that offensive line in Arizona. One thing that worries me is the overall size, sure, but he’s going to go from playing behind one of the best offensive lines in college football (four of their offensive linemen are in this year’s draft) to playing behind something average, for now. He does go to “the well” far too often when looking deep downfield, and I think he plays quarterback much differently than Baker Mayfield despite playing in the same system.
Realistically, we should see at least two quarterbacks in the first round, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Drew Lock and Daniel Jones make it into the first round, too.
If I’m wrong on these quarterbacks, that’s fine, but I’d be lying if I said that I like these guys more than some of the quarterbacks from last year. That would be complete hogwash. Speaking of hogs, what about some more hog mollies? This would be the time to get an interior offensive lineman with Chris Lindstrom, Erik McCoy, and Elgton Jenkins all available. You could also throw Dalton Risner into the mix. He’s become one of my favorite players in this class and has experience at right guard, center, and right tackle. With 49 career starts, you’re getting a mature player who’s ready to hold down a starting spot on the offensive line for the next 7-10 years, and there’s nothing wrong with spending a high pick on that.
The Wide Receivers are Good — Damn Good
As for the wide receivers, what’s not to like? I love this group overall, and despite not talking about D.K Metcalf in the first round section, let’s talk about some of these guys. Pick your flavor and what fits your team best. Is it Hollywood Brown with his dynamic ability to outrun defenses? Or what about Kelvin Harmon, whose strong hands give him the ability to be the strongest blocker on the outside in the class? Add in the route running ability from Terry McLaurin and Deebo Samuel, and you can truly get whatever you’d like. Of the receivers listed, there’s one that I think can become a true number one receiver (like Julio Jones or DeAndre Hopkins) and that would be Hakeem Butler. An athletic freak at 6’5″, and with a great catch radius, he’ll be a mismatch against any defense he faces.
Lastly, there are some pretty good defensive backs in this group. Julian Love from Notre Dame is a player I like quite a bit. He’s a pretty good zone corner and could improve in man coverage, but overall, he’s an intelligent player with good range and ball skills. He had 39 pass deflections at Notre Dame, and I think he transitions nicely for whatever team selects him on the second day of the draft. The safeties should also fly off the board. Much like the receivers, pick your flavor. Each one has the versatility you want for the position, but they all do things a bit differently.
Amani Hooker flashes the range you want out of the position, flips his hips with ease, and could be in more of a nickel role at the next level. Nasir Adderley should simply be a free safety, but when he showed what he can do in man coverage at the Senior Bowl, I was less than thrilled with that. Taylor Rapp has some concerns with his long speed, but he’s productive and does a nice job over tight ends or in the box, and the same with Jonathan Abram, an aggressive player with good tackling ability who fits that “box safety” role. Again, pick your flavor and hopefully your secondary can flourish.
Late Day Two Leads into Day Three
We’re now getting into players that could easily be in play for the third round but definitely the fourth round. I’ll start on a hill that we’re all familiar with, and that’s Ryan Finley. He’s the most pro-ready quarterback in this draft, and he does a good job with his pre-snap reads and normally makes good decisions with the football. He doesn’t have the strongest arm in the class and struggles with pressure in his face. If your team passes on a quarterback in the first round, it wouldn’t be terrible if they ended up with him somewhere on the second day or early day three.
Jachai Polite is a talented pass rusher, but as I mentioned in my first mock draft of the year, there are some character concerns. Put his performance at the Scouting Combine and pro day into the mix and there’s a player who could end up in the as an earlier third rounder. Polite has to get better at stopping the run, but if you can keep him in check off the field, you can get a pass rusher who can help right away.
James Williams and Jakobi Meyers are two of my favorite skilled position players in this draft. James Williams should be considered in the fourth round and is one of the few running backs in this class who has the ability to catch passes out of the backfield and will give you everything he has whenever he’s on the field. Meyers is a perfect slot receiver who can win by attacking the middle of the field with in-breaking routes or along the sideline with out-breaking routes. Both of these players could be solid players at the next level.
Fourth and Fifth Rounders
Let’s start with one of my Michigan State Spartans, Khari Willis. Once again, pro comparisons aren’t my thing, but if you want a player similar to Glover Quinn, look no further. Willis has no issues in run support and does a good job in coverage. He’s a bit better in man coverage than zone, but he has the range needed to get from sideline to sideline and help over the top in Cover 2. He’s really moved up draft boards, and for good reason. If he ends up in that range of the fourth or fifth round, it’s a terrific value pick.
Oh, Bryce Love, what you were supposed to be. Going into the season, he was my RB1, and here we are. What is he, RB11? The mixture of his injuries and questioning his love of football will do that. There’s some serious talent with Love, and he has the breakaway speed and elusiveness between the tackles that makes him very intriguing. If he can stay healthy and is truly invested in football over the next five or six seasons, I think you can get a really good player that can contribute in a committee of running backs.
Let me stay on the beaten path of skilled position players such as Dillon Mitchell and DeMarkus Lodge. Both of these guys can play and could go much sooner than where I have them on the board. Lodge has some serious upside, and if a team can improve his route running ability and he can become more fluid, he’ll be a better pro than he was a college player. As for Mitchell, I’m a really big fan of his game. He’d fit in a vertical passing game and can play in the slot or on the outside. There’s a tendency to round his routes, but he tracks the ball well and keeps his eyes on the quarterback. If all works out, he can become a quarterback’s best friend.
The Rest of the Pack
As for the rest of the pack, it’s an interesting group. For starters, P.J. Locke is a safety that I’m a fan of, and you should be, too. He can do a variety of things, whether he’s locked in man coverage, coming up in run support, or playing as a single high safety. The only issue is that he doesn’t stand out in any one area, and at times can look like “just a guy”. After talking with him, he’s not just a guy, though. He’ll be a special teams player to start, but I could see him getting involved on defense eventually.
Some of you are probably interested in my thoughts on Phil Haynes. Maybe it’s that I need to watch every game, but after 4.5 games, I saw a player who struggled reading incoming blitzes, hand placement was somewhat of a concern, and overall effort was the biggest area that concerned me. If your quarterback is under duress and you just stand there, it’s a problem.
If you want to talk about more players on the board and you have questions, comments, or concerns, find me on Twitter @RussNFLDraft! There’s plenty to discuss, but overall, I wanted to present to you my big board for the 2019 NFL Draft. In the process, I wanted to talk about some of the players I really like and some players that concern me, then, of course, the players that everyone wants to talk about.
I’ll end on this note, and it’s that I cannot say thank you enough to everyone that has followed along and helped out on this journey. From my NFL Draft colleagues at Cover 1, Christian Page and Jordan Reid, to my right-hand man, Erik Turner, it’s been such a fun year for the NFL Draft. As for all of my followers on Twitter and the people that read my work or listen to me on the radio or podcasts, thank you! Without your support, none of this is possible. I wouldn’t have a big board with 200 players on it and I wouldn’t have colleagues. So again, thank you and thank you again.
Enjoy the big board, use it for mock drafts, and of course, enjoy my Christmas Day, the 2019 NFL Draft!