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For an event that’s just three days of hearing names called, the NFL draft has become one of the biggest spectacles in professional sports.
It’s always full of surprises, and this year’s edition in Nashville, Tennessee, was no exception. The 2019 class didn’t have a lot of elite talent, but there were plenty of solid players taken in first few rounds. However, just like every year, some prospects slid while others went earlier than expected.
After 254 picks over three days, here are a handful of reaches, surprises and steals from the event.
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The Washington Redskins not so quietly may have had the best first round of anyone.
After staying patient and letting Dwayne Haskins fall to them at No. 15 instead of trading up, the Redskins traded for another first-round pick and took Mississippi State edge-rusher Montez Sweat at No. 26 for the steal of Day 1.
Sweat posted all the measurables teams are looking for in a first-round edge-rusher. According to MockDraftable, he was in at least the 80th percentile historically among edge-rushers in the vertical jump (81st), three-cone drill (83rd), height (88th), broad jump (92nd), hand size (92nd), arm length (97th) and wingspan (98th), and he posted a 40-yard dash time of 4.41 seconds, putting him in the 99th percentile.
The production was also there for Sweat with 11.5 sacks and FWAA first-team All-American honors his senior season. However, he saw his stock fall over the past couple of months because of a reported heart condition found at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
But NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported hours before the draft that Sweat’s heart condition may have been misdiagnosed and that the prospect was clear of any medical red flags.
If that’s the case, Washington could not have gotten a better deal. Trading up 20 spots by giving up the No. 46 overall pick this year and a second-round pick next year sounds like a heck of a swap for a potential Pro Bowl pass-rusher.
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Many New York Giants fans wanted a quarterback, but did they get the right one with the right pick? General manager Dave Gettleman had his top guy in mind and pulled the trigger at No. 6.
Everyone’s board is different, but Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller had Daniel Jones out of his top 50 (No. 4 QB). While Jones possesses great size at 6’5″ and 221 pounds, he has average arm talent, an elongated throwing motion and had far too many passes batted down at the line of scrimmage for a player his height.
Further, Gettleman has already said the team could consider letting Jones sit for three seasons if Eli Manning plays well.
Taking a player inside the top 10 to let him sit behind a 38-year-old is bad enough, but this pick was such a reach because the Giants had a second pick in the first round and could’ve moved up to land Dwayne Haskins.
Instead, they are taking a big chance on Jones, and they’re hoping all of the criticism will be a distant memory in a few years.
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This year’s edge class was filled with elite talent, but among almost all major outlets, Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell wasn’t a player near the top of the class. However, the Oakland Raiders felt confident that Ferrell was their guy, shocking the crowd by taking him fourth overall.
B/R’s Matt Miller had Ferrell graded as the 23rd-best player in this class and the sixth-best edge-rusher. Ferrell looks the part of an elite edge-rusher with his lengthy 6’4″, 264-pound frame and can time the snap well, but he lacks elite burst after his first couple of steps and has limited lateral agility.
The Raiders are always under the microscope, but this offseason has intensified that. Eccentric second-year head coach Jon Gruden and new analyst-turned-GM Mike Mayock are an odd couple, and the news about the two sending the scouting staff home raised eyebrows.
It’s obviously far too early to assume Ferrell will be a bust, but passing on the likes of Kentucky’s Josh Allen and Florida State’s Brian Burns was bold. The good news for Raiders fans is that even if Ferrell doesn’t pan out, they had a lot of draft capital this year to hopefully bring in some starting-caliber players.
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There were a number of mock drafts that had the Jacksonville Jaguars taking Florida offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor with the No. 7 overall pick. Fortunately for the Jaguars, they were still able to snag one of the best OT prospects in this class in the second round.
Talented edge-rusher Josh Allen was too tempting to pass up in the first round, but they still addressed their offensive line needs by snagging Taylor in the second.
B/R’s Matt Miller had Taylor as the second-best offensive tackle prospect in this year’s class. The Florida native projects best as a right tackle given his size (6’5″, 328 lbs), length and aggressive demeanor as a run-blocker. He’s not the most technically sound in pass protection, but he has the attitude to be an NFL-caliber offensive lineman.
After bringing in Nick Foles this offseason, the Jaguars snagged two big-time players in the draft.
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The Houston Texans desperately needed to address their offensive line issues this offseason after having Deshaun Watson run for his life throughout the 2018 season. However, after not snagging any big names in free agency, they might have been a little too antsy to draft someone in the first round.
After the Philadelphia Eagles traded up in front of the Texans to take Washington State OT Andre Dillard, a likely option for Houston, the Texans selected Tytus Howard out of Alabama State.
While they picked the right position, they may not have picked the best remaining player at offensive tackle.
Players like Florida’s Jawaan Taylor, Kansas State’s Dalton Risner and Washington’s Kaleb McGary were ranked higher on Miller’s final big board. Apparently, the Texans’ board looked a bit different, but taking a small-school guy with limited exposure against elite competition is always a risk.
Maybe Howard will turn out to be a stud, but the Texans passed over several talented options.
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Heading into the draft, few prospects were covered more than Ole Miss wide receiver D.K. Metcalf. The super-athletic receiver took the internet by storm during the draft process, but teams apparently weren’t sold enough on him to take him in the first round.
Falling out of the first was surprising on its own, but Metcalf’s slide continued all the way to the end of the second round, when the Seahawks finally pulled the trigger at No. 64.
Despite his impressive frame and explosiveness, concerns surfaced when Metcalf ran the three-cone drill in 7.38 seconds, putting him in just the second percentile all time among wide receivers, per MockDraftable.
That historically poor three-cone drill showed up on film as well, with Metcalf struggling to cut in and out of routes to create separation. While his 6’3″ size and 4.33 40 speed make him an ideal vertical threat, teams were likely concerned about his ability to consistently get open.
The Seahawks are hoping that won’t be an issue, and fans should still be excited to see such a physical phenomenon like Metcalf catching passes from Russell Wilson next season.
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This year’s cornerback class had a lot of big names, and LSU’s Greedy Williams was near the top of many predraft lists.
Apparently that wasn’t the case for a lot of teams, but the Cleveland Browns are probably thrilled that Williams fell to No. 46 overall. He seemed pretty thrilled too, telling reporters the Browns are going to the Super Bowl this year.
Williams was B/R’s Matt Miller’s top-graded corner and No. 15 overall prospect, but six corners went before him in the actual draft.
He has great length and excellent speed and also has the football IQ to recognize route concepts and bait the quarterback into bad throws. The Browns may not have had a pick in the first round after trading for Odell Beckham Jr., but they still got a first-round talent by taking Williams.
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Inside linebackers aren’t as valuable as they used to be, but don’t tell that to the Detroit Lions. Just two years after taking Jarrad Davis in the first round, they took another ILB in Hawaii’s Jahlani Tavai.
Tavai has NFL size at 6’2″ and 250 pounds, but the competition he played wasn’t exactly elite in college. Despite his college production, the Hawaii prospect was only B/R’s Matt Miller’s eighth-ranked linebacker in 2019.
It not only feels like a reach considering other talented linebackers like Bobby Okereke, Mack Wilson and Vosean Joseph were on the board (and could have been had much later), but also because the Lions already seemed like they had a solid starter at the position in Davis.
It’s an odd pick for a team with bigger and more important needs, so the pressure will be on the front office for Tavai to produce early in his NFL career.
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Reinventing the offense seemed to be a priority for the Arizona Cardinals this weekend, and they got some exciting playmakers in the first few rounds.
Along with taking Kyler Murray No. 1 overall and Massachusetts wide receiver Andy Isabella late in Round 2, the Cardinals opened Day 3 by selecting promising wideout Hakeem Butler out of Iowa State.
Coming in at an intimidating 6’6″ and 225 pounds, Butler averaged 22 yards per reception this past season. His contested-catch ability is also off the charts, and he’s a tough player for defensive backs to bring down in open space
Butler’s slide was likely due to his struggles with drops during his college career, but it’s something that players have been able to rectify in the past in the pros.
Cardinals fans will be excited to know that Butler has been working with Calvin Johnson and Anquan Boldin this offseason, and for a fourth-round pick, there’s tons of potential.
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For the San Francisco 49ers to take a punter with one of the first few picks of Saturday was surprising. Last year’s draft was a good example of the risk involved in taking a punter early in Day 3.
Both the Seattle Seahawks and Green Bay Packers took punters in the fifth round. Michael Dickson went on to have an incredible rookie year that included a first-team All-Pro selection. Meanwhile, JK Scott struggled with consistency and had a net average punt of just 38.8 yards.
It’s hard to say what Mitch Wishnowsky out of Utah will be in the pros, but either way, the 49ers probably could have waited later in the day before taking a special teams contributor.