Let me begin by saying that no one should be doing a mock draft in July—not me, not anyone. We don’t know which teams are going to be drafting at the top (for this order, I used the reverse order of the current Bovada Super Bowl odds), nor do we know, in some of these cases, who will be in the teams’ front offices doing the drafting. All of these college players still have a full season left to play, and things can change wildly in that time.
And yet, I’ll admit it. I very well might click when I see a 2019 mock draft floating around there on the internet, especially if it’s for someone reputable.
Does that make me an idiot? Probably. A sucker? Definitely. I love college football and I love pro football, and so I can’t help myself, which means I can’t blame you for wanting this kind of thing.
A few quick notes: First, the scouts I’ve talked to are knowledgeable, of course, but haven’t yet studied many players in the 2019 class thoroughly, nor have they done the litany of school visits, live scouting trips and recon work they’ll have in the can when the process ramps up again in January. Opinions on players will likely change—most notably, quarterbacks often rise in scouts’ minds during the fall and get overdrafted in the spring.
But this year could be different because of the lack of clear first-round options.
“Need might be the most important part for this year’s class—who in the hell is going to need a quarterback?” says Trent Dilfer. “Does Blake Bortles play well this year? Does Lamar Jackson take over for Flacco? I don’t know. The Pittsburgh Steelers have Mason Rudolph behind Ben Roethlisberger, and I love Mason, but Drew Lock and Jarrett Stidham are better prospects than Mason.
“Where’s the need? If I pulled up the 32 teams, I can’t think of many teams that need one. So that alone is going to limit the amount of first-round quarterbacks.”
Dilfer’s right—there’s only one team in the NFL that doesn’t have either a veteran quarterback making $16 million per season or a former first-rounder on a rookie deal on its roster, and that’s Dallas, which has Dak Prescott. If you move that bar to $20 million per, just four more teams join the Cowboys—the Dolphins, Jaguars, Broncos and Bengals. So it’s hard to find teams that will be desperate in 2019.
A final point about the 2019 draft class: It will be loaded with guys who make their bones hitting quarterbacks. Just get scouts talking about it, and you’ll find that out quickly.
Now you have the caveats and the themes. I vetted all of this, but again, even the guys paid to assess these players aren’t close to being there yet in knowing what they’ll need to come April. Think of this as a fun, working list going into the fall.
1. New York Jets: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
At this point, it seems most evaluators feel like Nick is a better prospect than Joey was, which really says something about the youngest member of the pass-rushing version of the Mannings. He has very few flaws. And health-permitting, he’s a lock to go in the Top 10 picks.
2. Miami Dolphins: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
I had one exec compare Oliver to Vikings legend John Randle; another said he was the best player in college football last year. He’s a 290-pound freak who moves like a ’backer. The only knock I’ve heard concerns his height. But Aaron Donald’s done OK working around that.
3. Arizona Cardinals: Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss
Little stepped in as Laremy Tunsil’s successor as the Rebels’ left tackle without much drop-off, and he’s got all the physical tools to go at the top of the draft.
4. Buffalo Bills: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
Part of the question with Ferrell is centered on his measureables, but he has an incredible knack for beating tackles and getting to the quarterback. And yes, the Bills have a checkered history with drafting Clemson players, but Ferrell is where fit meets need and both meet position value.
5. Cincinnati Bengals: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
Lawrence is an absolute monster—a boulder to move against the run, with the athletic potential to become a high-end distrupter in the passing game. He’s probably the most gifted of the Clemson defensive linemen with the most room to grow.
6. Chicago Bears: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
Williams was the Tide’s right tackle in 2016 and left tackle last year, and it’s a tribute to the talent on hand that he might get moved again to make room for Alex Leatherwood this fall. And it also speaks to how complete, and smart, a lineman Williams is seen to be.
7. Washington Redskins: Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn
The quarterback race to be the first quarterback take is wide open, and Alex Smith will turn 35 next May. So finding his eventual replacement makes sense, and Stidham seems to be the clubhouse leader, edging out Missouri’s Drew Lock, heading into the fall.
8. Cleveland Browns: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
Three Tiger DLs in the first eight picks? Yup. Wilkins is a freakish, upfield interior pass-rusher who’ll fit best in the kind of scheme that Cleveland’s running now under Gregg Williams—one that attacks, attacks, attacks.
9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
Corners are always valued, and LSU’s been a defensive back factory, so it makes sense that NFL evaluators will look to Baton Rouge for another great one. Williams has the rangy frame that teams look for these days, and put together a splashy 2017 season after redshirting in 2016.
10. Indianapolis Colts: Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
Gary hasn’t come close to realizing his potential yet, which opens the possibility that he could well wind up going higher than this. One scout I spoke with compared his freakish combination of size and speed and strength to what Lions star Ziggy Ansah brought to the table back in 2017.
Ten more players to watch
Trey Adams, OT, Washington: Returning from a torn ACL, otherwise he might have gone pro last year.
DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia: He’s the best defensive back on an SEC championship team, but there are questions around how much his size (5' 11", 180 pounds) limits him.
AJ Brown, WR, Ole Miss: Some buzz is gathering around Brown, a big and gifted receiver who took over a handful of games last year.
Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama: Chances are that a Tide interior defensive lineman is drafted in the first round for the third straight year in 2019.
David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin: He may have been the best right tackle in America last year, and he considered declaring for the draft. The NFL’s had success with OLs from Madison.
Damien Harris, RB, Alabama: Many felt that he’d have been the second best back in the 2018 class, and most were surprised he decided to return to school.
Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon: Big, athletic and productive, Herbert will have to answer questions about how evolved he is as a quarterback and his toughness.
Drew Lock, QB, Missouri: Lock’s accuracy needs to improve in 2018. New coordinator Derek Dooley’s pro-style scheme should give him a good proving ground.
Jeffery Simmons, DL, Mississippi State: Video surfaced of Simmons hitting a woman his senior year of high school, and that will follow him. But his athleticism is freakish.
Devin White, LB, LSU: If he builds off a starry sophomore year and tests physically like NFL teams expect him to, position value will be the only thing holding him back.