And that’s a wrap. The 2019 NFL draft is in the books, all 254 picks, and now it’s time for some of our annual inarguable, indisputable and incontrovertible draft takeaways. Here are seven — one for each round of the draft.
This QB class is among the worst in decades
OK, that’s a bit harsh. But the usual scramble for the draft’s best quarterbacks never materialized. This was only the second draft of the past 16 that did not include at least one trade in the first round to draft a quarterback. The New York Giants might have pre-empted one by selecting Duke’s Daniel Jones at No. 6 overall, more than a little too enthusiastically I might add. And it’s true that this year’s class fell between the heralded 2018 group and another promising one in 2020. (That group includes Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Georgia’s Jake Fromm and Washington’s Jacob Eason, among others.)
Regardless, this group inspired a mostly “meh” response from teams. That no one traded back into the first round to draft Missouri’s Drew Lock, for the purpose of securing him for a potential fifth-year contract option, spoke volumes. Lock waited until midway through the second round, No. 42 overall, for the Denver Broncos to select him. (Admittedly, the match of the New England Patriots and Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round is awfully intriguing.)
The only other comparable draft over those 16 years was 2015, when when Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota went in the first two picks, and then the next quarterback selected was Garrett Grayson in the third round (No. 75 overall). But the 2015 class, comprised of just seven total members, was the league’s smallest since 1955.
Mike Golic Jr. and Mina Kimes react to the news that Josh Rosen is being traded to the Dolphins.
Dolphins are massive winners
The Miami Dolphins have spent 20 years trying to replace Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino. This draft brought them closer than they have ever been.
Had he entered the 2019 draft with the same resume as he did in 2018, Josh Rosen would have been a top-five pick. He turned 22 in February and has 13 NFL starts. His contract calls for about $6 million in salary over the next three seasons combined, and it cost only a low second- and a 2020 fifth-round pick to acquire him from the Arizona Cardinals. In short, the Dolphins procured a legitimate blue-chip prospect at a steep discount in a way that won’t inhibit their ability to move on to a different quarterback at any point.
It’s true that Rosen led the NFL’s worst offense last season, and he is now the first quarterback taken in the first round since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger to move on after one season. But let’s attribute an appropriate amount of blame to the Cardinals, who among many sins hired a coaching staff that was so bad that it needed to be fired after one season. They also fielded the league’s worst pass-blocking offensive line, as measured by ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate metric.
It might not get better immediately for Rosen; the Dolphins had the league’s second-worst pass blocking line in 2018 by the same ranking. But this is the kind of acquisition we rarely see in the NFL trade market, even if it was driven in part by the Cardinals’ ineptitude.
There is more to like about Rosen — his intelligence, his accuracy, and frankly, his contract — than any of the other characters they have turned to in the post-Marino era. New coach Brian Flores has a supremely talented quarterback to build around, but without the institutional inertia that often leaves teams waiting too long for progress from players they drafted themselves. (See: Ryan Tannehill.) This was a grand slam for a franchise that usually tries just to keep the ball in play.
Dwayne Haskins expresses his thoughts on being picked by the Redskins at No. 15 and to be able to play close to home.
The past two drafts have set up the East divisions
The Dolphins’ acquisition of Rosen means that three of the quarterbacks taken in the 2018 first round are now with AFC East teams. Rosen, Sam Darnold (New York Jets) and Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills) are now in position to challenge the Patriots’ Tom Brady or, more likely, to compete for supremacy when (or if) he retires.
Meanwhile, half of the NFC East reshaped itself Thursday night. The Giants targeted Jones and the Washington Redskins grabbed Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. Now all four division rivals have quarterbacks who are 26 or younger. That doesn’t mean they all have 10-year starters. In fact, history tells us they do not. But at the very least, each team can focus its long-term team building around a particular player, a luxury that only about half of NFL franchises possess.
Annual comparisons of Jones to Haskins will inform evaluations of the Giants for a generation. If the next decade features a battle between Haskins, Jones, Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles) and Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys), who do you got? (I’ll take Wentz.)
Trade volume is revealing
The idea that teams don’t fixate on certain players but instead take the best available when their pick arrives should be forever smashed by what happened Friday night.
There were 18 separate trades involving picks during the second and third rounds, the second-most on a single draft day since the event expanded in 2010. Some teams — mostly notably the Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings — were trying to build up Day 3 capital. But their partners were enthused or desperate enough to spend at least two picks to draft one player. That’s how well-regarded players such as defensive end Montez Sweat (Redskins), offensive lineman Cody Ford (Bills), cornerback Greedy Williams (Cleveland Browns) and receivers Mecole Hardman (Kansas City Chiefs) and DK Metcalf (Seahawks) all found homes.
The moves can also provide insight into otherwise hidden league thinking. The Broncos, for instance, traded in front of the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers to draft Lock. Did they believe that the Lions, or more likely the Packers, were poised to take him? The Chiefs’ decision to draft the speedy Hardman could mean the potential release of receiver Tyreek Hill. And the Seahawks-Metcalf union made sense once ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that veteran Doug Baldwin might retire because of an injury. Remember these instances, especially when you hear a team executive say he doesn’t focus on individual players or specific needs in the draft. They do.
2020 draft capital builds
In part because of this week’s trades, we have some early leaders for 2020 draft capital. Four teams have multiple picks in either or both of the first two rounds:
Meanwhile, the Broncos have a pair of third-round picks in addition to their spots in the first and second round.
Mock draft accuracy wasn’t much different, but …
Mock drafts tend to inform the public’s perception of team draft performance more than anyone cares to admit. And so it wasn’t surprising to see television broadcasts and social media light up early Thursday night when the Raiders selected Clemson pass rusher Clelin Ferrell, who had been projected as a late-first round pick by many mocks.
Two picks later, the Giants grabbed Jones in another move that few mockers had projected. Combined, the Ferrell and Jones selections created the early impression of a draft off the rails.
That perception, however, was driven largely by the two early “surprises,” and another few at the end of the round. According to analysis of more than 2,000 available mock drafts by FiveThirtyEight, the 2019 first round as a whole wasn’t much different than what we saw in 2018. The average first-round pick was drafted six spots earlier than expected, as opposed to five earlier in 2018.
So in truth, the 2019 first round wasn’t any crazier than the one we had most recently witnessed. That gives me an opportunity to remind the world that mock drafts are a fun part of the pre-draft process, to be viewed as a warm-up for the actual event. They get us thinking about the possibilities. But they shouldn’t be used as data with which to judge the actual decisions. Maybe we’re too far down the road for such a change in thinking, but pre-draft guessing isn’t a reliable guidepost for thoughtful post-draft evaluation.