Winners and Losers from the 2019 NFL Draft
The NFL teams that may have had the best drafts in 2019, as well as the franchises that may not have done so well.
Updated: May 1, 2019 • 10:35 AM ET
Dwayne Haskins may have been the steal of the 2019 NFL Draft.
With the 2019 NFL Draft behind us, it’s time to turn our attention to next season. As teams re-evaluate their rosters and position rookies up and down depth charts, it’s only right to look at which teams came away with the best draft hauls, and which franchises left us scratching our heads.
While it’s much too early to grade and compare players, because none of the incoming rookies have taken the field yet, we can certainly evaluate value and fit. All the players drafted, late rounds included, are talented, and a poor team grade is more of a comment on the positions prioritized against actual team needs than a knock on any of the players themselves. That being said, this year’s affair will not be soon forgotten, with a record 40 trades shaking up even the top experts’ draft boards.
The first round could only be described as impossibly unpredictable, and rounds 2-7 didn’t offer much more certainty, either. We saw a few trends ring true, such as the Jaguars picking up another top tackle in the second round (Cam Robinson in 2017, Jawaan Taylor this year) and the 49ers going defensive line in the first round for the fourth time in five years. We also saw a few against-the-grain picks, most notably the Cardinals taking a quarterback in the top 10 for the second consecutive year and the Buccaneers going with two cornerbacks on day two in back-to-back drafts.
The draft may be the most sustainable route to success in today’s NFL, so let’s take a step back and appreciate what some teams accomplished this time around.
Favorite Pick from Day One: Devin Bush, LB (Pittsburgh Steelers, 10th Overall)
The Steelers moved up 10 spots without selling the farm to grab Ryan Shazier’s long-awaited replacement in Devin Bush, who figures to be an impact player in the middle of their defense. Bush brings elite athleticism, superior coverage skills and solid tackling to a linebacker corps that was left searching for answers last year.
Favorite Pick from Day Two: Parris Campbell, WR (Indianapolis Colts, 59th Overall)
Indianapolis must’ve wanted Marquise Brown, trading down after the Ravens picked him one spot ahead of the Colts in the first round. However, you could argue that the Colts got the better speedster in Parris Campbell. Campbell has elite speed, playing faster than the 4.31 he recorded at the combine (that’s saying something), and WR1 size, the only two things T.Y. Hilton can’t lay claim to himself. He’s the perfect complement to Hilton and the versatile offensive weapon the Colts lacked. Any time you grab a potential year-one Pro Bowler outside the first round, that’s a big win.
Favorite Pick from Day Three: Jarrett Stidham, QB (New England Patriots, 133rd Overall)
The Patriots had Drew Lock and Josh Rosen conversations, both of whom ended up costing second round picks, but waited until the fourth frame to grab Tom Brady’s possible successor. While Jarrett Stidham currently isn’t on par with the top quarterbacks from his class, he couldn’t have landed in a better spot, where he’ll have a year or two to learn from the best.
Favorite Unpopular Pick: Clelin Ferrell, DE (Oakland Raiders, 4th Overall)
If at the top of the Raiders’ to-do list was addressing pass rushing needs and filling the void left by Khalil Mack, they did just that by picking up Clelin Ferrell, who may wind up being the top 4-3 defensive end from this draft.
Dark Horse for Best Pick: Jachai Polite, DE (New York Jets, 68th Overall)
The Jets got a first-round talent in the third round to fill their biggest need for an outside pass rush. After selecting Quinnen Williams with their first selection, the Jets now have an impressive pass rush, and that’s something you couldn’t say a year ago. Jachai Polite slipped in the draft after a poor showing at the combine, but his talent is undeniable, and the fit looks good on paper.
The Jets might’ve gotten the steal of the draft with Polite, who should be a day-one, high-caliber starter for New York. After adding C.J. Mosley in free agency, maybe the Jets can make the switch to a 4-3 after all. Change was definitely needed for this front seven, and they made the most of what they had this offseason, putting together a fearsome group despite having no second-round pick. Again, that’s a win.
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Division that had the best draft: AFC South
Where do I start? Three of the four teams in the AFC South knocked it out of the park in Nashville.
The Jaguars picked up a sliding Josh Allen with the seventh overall pick, where many experts had them taking a tight end. Instead, Jacksonville added a player who has top five talent as both a pass rush specialist and roaming outside linebacker. Allen will join recent signee Jake Ryan to form an impressive unit with the equally versatile Myles Jack and the uber-athletic Telvin Smith on the weak side. Next, the Jags picked up Jawaan Taylor towards the top of the second round, a player pegged by most as the top tackle in this class and a day one starter on the right side. This pick’s resemblance to the 2017 selection of Cam Robinson is just uncanny. The Jaguars were relatively quiet on day three, but picking up a pair of high-caliber starters with their first two picks and adding a likely starter at tight end in round three, Josh Oliver, is about all you can ask for from a team.
Indianapolis didn’t have any glaring holes entering the draft, but they improved their depth on every level, so we’ll call that a big win. After trading out of the first round, the Colts added cornerback Rock Ya-Sin to improve their open-field tackling, a weak spot for last year’s secondary. Ben Banogu out of TCU has a high-ceiling, as he’s an athletic edge rusher who could see the field early on but will likely back up Jabaal Sheard or Justin Houston. Parris Campbell, as already mentioned, is a much-needed addition to what has been a very one-dimensional wide receiver group, and Bobby Okereke and Marvin Tell are high-upside picks that will push Anthony Walker and Malik Hooker, respectively, for reps earlier than expected.
Tennessee made their mark in the first round by taking Jeffery Simmons with the 19th pick, a top-five talent that fell due to an ACL tear that will keep him out of 2019 action for a while, and an assault charge picked up in high school that took him off some teams’ draft boards entirely. In the second round, the Titans grabbed A.J. Brown, who will start opposite Corey Davis. They followed that pick with the selection of Nate Davis, who should be a day-one starter at right guard, in the third frame. From day three, Amani Hooker, D’Andre Walker and David Long should provide quality depth and could develop into potential starters down the road.
As for the Texans, they targeted their needs a little too aggressively on days one and two. First-round pick Tytus Howard probably could’ve been had in round three, or round two at the very least, and Max Scharping was a similar reach in the second round. Houston’s top priority this offseason was improving the league’s worst offensive line at all costs. Despite putting high draft capital towards this goal, it’s unclear whether the unit in question improved at all, or at least on paper. This Texans’ draft had a couple of bright spots in cornerback Lonnie Johnson, tight end Kahale Warring and defensive end Charles Omenihu, but an inability to acquire any surefire starters across an entire class is holding them back from a better review. All in all, every AFC South team is poised to make a deep playoff run in 2019, thanks in part to some solid showings at the draft. Three of four AFC South teams killed it this year, and the fourth hopes to prove us all wrong.
Best Draft based on value: Washington Redskins
Round 1, pick 15: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Round 1, pick 26: Montez Sweat, DL, Mississippi State
Round 3, pick 76: Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State
Round 4, pick 112: Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
Round 4, pick 131: Wes Martin, G, Indiana
Round 5, pick 153: Ross Pierschbacher, C, Alabama
Round 5, pick 173: Cole Holcomb, LB, North Carolina
Round 6, pick 206: Kelvin Harmon, WR, North Carolina State
Round 7, pick 227: Jimmy Moreland, CB, James Madison
Round 7, pick 253: Jordan Brailford, DE, Oklahoma State
The Redskins were among the favorites to trade up with the Jets to take Dwayne Haskins ahead of the Raiders, Giants, Broncos, Bengals and Dolphins. Instead, they stood pat with the 15th overall selection and still got their man. Washington’s interest in Haskins was obvious, and the Maryland native would’ve been worth the move up for, so this was almost too good to be true.
Using a fraction of the draft capital they saved by not trading up for Haskins, the Redskins were able to move back into the tail end of the first round and picked up sliding top-ten talent Montez Sweat, who will likely be a day-one starter on the edge and replace the departed Preston Smith. Ohio State wideout Terry McLaurin wasn’t a wow pick, per se, but the foresight to pair a rookie quarterback with a receiver he already has some chemistry with can’t be overstated.
Bryce Love is a boom-or-bust speedy back who could start if Derrius Guice can’t make a full recovery from a knee injury, and Pierschbacher is a big-program starter who could provide good depth when paired with Wes Martin on the interior of an offensive line that lost some contributors in free agency (most notably Shawn Lauvao and Ty Nsekhe). Both will compete with Ereck Flowers for the starting left guard spot. Kelvin Harmon was one of my favorite picks of the draft, as he came in with a few first-round grades and seemed like a day two lock. Washington’s receiving corps needed an overhaul, and they got two good pieces at a tremendous discount.
Best Draft based on need: Buffalo Bills
Round 1, pick 9: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
Round 2, pick 38: Cody Ford, G, Oklahoma
Round 3, pick 74: Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic
Round 3, pick 96: Dawson Knox, TE, Mississippi
Round 5, pick 147: Vosean Joseph, LB, Florida
Round 6, pick 181: Jaquan Johnson, S, Miami
Round 7, pick 225: Darryl Johnson, DE, North Carolina A&T
Round 7, pick 228: Tommy Sweeney, TE, Boston College
The Bills needed to strike gold in this year’s draft, regressing to 6-10 after making the playoffs for the first time since 1999 a season ago. They did just that, picking up five potential starters with their first five picks.
Buffalo found some good values despite heavily targeting their needs and came away with an outstanding group overall. Ed Oliver is in contention for the steal of the draft at ninth overall, which is fair after the pro day he laid down for our enjoyment. He’ll fill the hole left by Kyle Williams and could be a long-time stud on Buffalo’s d-line, which can use him anywhere from the nose spot to an over-the-tackle rusher in some wide sets. Cody Ford is a day-one starter at right tackle, and the Bills were ecstatic to grab the draft’s most powerful blocker on day two.
Devin Singletary, who reminds me a bit of LeSean McCoy with his creativity as a ball carrier and pass catcher, could put his tough running to use sooner than later, with both McCoy and recent signee Frank Gore in the twilights of their careers (although other recent signee T.J. Yeldon will also factor in). Dawson Knox may push Tyler Kroft to be Josh Allen’s safety net in the middle of the field, and Vosean Joseph could turn some heads in sub-sets, likely alongside Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds. Late picks Jaquan Johnson and Darryl Johnson add high-upside depth to areas of strength.
Most Frustrating Draft: New York Giants
Round 1, pick 6: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
Round 1, pick 17: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
Round 1, pick 30: Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
Round 3, pick 95: Oshane Ximines, EDGE, Old Dominion
Round 4, pick 108: Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame
Round 5, pick 143: Ryan Connelly, LB, Wisconsin
Round 5, pick 171: Darius Slayton, WR, Auburn
Round 6, pick 180: Corey Ballentine, CB, Washburn
Round 7, pick 232: George Asafo-Adjei, OT, Kentucky
Round 7, pick 245: Chris Slayton, DT, Syracuse
The Giants didn’t have a bad draft, but it wasn’t a good one. Going with a quarterback at sixth overall was the right move, but you have to wonder if picking Daniel Jones, a passer who needs polishing, was ideal, given New York’s pressing need at the position. Jones could have a very good NFL career, but he didn’t land in the best situation on a team that failed to shore up its offensive line and lost one of the game’s best wide receivers (voluntarily).
Dexter Lawrence is another good player that just doesn’t make sense for New York, whose only area of certainty coming into the draft was on the interior d-line. Lawrence will have to share time with Dalvin Tomlinson at the nose. Was trading back into the first round for cornerback Deandre Baker necessary when we saw Greedy Williams slip all the way to the Cleveland Browns midway through the second round? Ximines and Love were good picks, but the Giants failed to address their biggest needs at edge rusher and right tackle at the top end of the draft.
Despite making three first-round selections, it seems the Giants set themselves up for another season of mediocrity, at best. General manager Dave Gettleman will likely be re-evaluated at the end of the 2019-20 season.
Most Polarizing Draft: Green Bay Packers
Round 1, pick 12: Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
Round 1, pick 21: Darnell Savage, S, Maryland
Round 2, pick 44: Elgton Jenkins, C, Mississippi State
Round 3, pick 75: Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M
Round 5, pick 150: Kingsley Keke, DL, Texas A&M
Round 5, pick 185: Ka’dar Hollman, CB, Toledo
Round 6, pick 194: Dexter Williams, RB, Notre Dame
Round 7, pick 226: Ty Summers, LB, Texas Christian
The Packers were praised for their selection of Rashan Gary, but both value and need were neglected. Gary was a high-upside prospect with undeniable athleticism and talent, but his production at the University of Michigan didn’t warrant a selection in the first half of the opening round. Green Bay will have trouble plugging him in, with Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and Za’Darius Smith firmly in place on the d-line. Maybe the Packers see Gary as a 3-4 rush linebacker, which could very well be the case. However, taking another DE/DT “tweener” in the same draft (Kingsley Keke) just doesn’t make sense. Gary is a good player, again, but you can only handle so many position-less players on one defense, considering Za’Darius Smith plays the same spot as both Keke and Gary and was just signed for $66 million over four years.
Taking the so-called “best player available” usually works out for championship teams, but Green Bay had some real needs to address this year, and the Gary selection was redundant and a waste of a high draft pick, given their efforts in free agency. Green Bay didn’t address Jake Ryan’s departure until the seventh frame, but safety and guard were both hits with Darnell Savage and Elgton Jenkins. Savage could be the missing piece in Green Bay’s secondary, but again, the trade up for him just didn’t make sense. He arguably could’ve been had in the second round, or at least with the 30th overall selection. Jace Sternberger in the third round was a very good value-to-need pick, but we’re yet to see how he pans out.
The Packers got some very talented players in this draft class, but failed to fill a few holes and made some questionable moves in general. Usually, the “boom or bust” label only applies to players, but it encapsulates this whole group pretty well. Either way, the jury is out.