2019 NFL Draft: First round will be dominated by defenders

By Jesse Reed

Recently, we delved into what an awful year this is for teams in need of a franchise quarterback. But teams that are looking for defensive help will find elite defenders aplenty in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

The big picture: Offensive stars might be found in this year’s draft, but many will be selected in the bottom half of Round 1 or after Day 1 altogether.

  • Depending on which 2019 NFL Draft big board you’re looking at, there are as many as 18-20 defenders in the top-32.
  • The disparity in the top half of the first round is even more glaring, with just a few to a handful of offensive players on the offensive side of the ball.

Defensive linemen dominate the landscape: Especially at the top, guys who can rush the passer, both inside and on the edge, are going to go early and often.

  • Defensive ends and outside linebackers like Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, Kentucky’s Josh Allen, Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell, Mississippi State’s Montez Sweat and Florida’s Jachai Polite all have a chance to go in the top-10 overall.
  • Defensive tackles Quinnen Williams out of Alabama, Houston’s Ed Oliver and Michigan’s Rashan Gary also have top-10 potential and should be drafted in the top half of the first round.
  • A bit further down the list, Christian Wilkins, fellow Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence, and Notre Dame’s Jeffery Tillery could go in the first round. Then there are guys like ‘Bama product Raekwon Davis, Michigan’s Chase Winovich and the lesser-known¬†Oshane Ximines out of Old Dominion who could also slide up into the top half of Round 1.

Strong class of defensive backs: We could see more than a handful of first-round picks being spent on cornerbacks and safeties.

  • LSU’s Greedy Williams leads a very strong group of cornerbacks at the top that includes Clemson’s Trayvon Mullen, Georgia’s Deandre Baker, and Washington’s Byron Murphy.
  • ‘Bama safety Deionte Thompson is this year’s consensus top safety and should easily go in the top-15. Nasir Adderley out of Delaware is undersized, but he packs a punch and is a ball hawk, to boot. He could slide up into the late first round as well.

Don’t forget the linebackers:¬†There are three inside linebackers who could potentially go in Round 1, too.

  • LSU’s Devin White is the undisputed top inside backer in this year’s class. He’s a tackling machine who flies sideline-to-sideline and is good in coverage. After White, Devin Bush out of Michigan and ‘Bama’s Mack Wilson are both fringe first-round picks.

The one potential hiccup: There’s one real possible outcome that could push many of these top defenders down just a bit — a run at quarterback early.

  • Because teams are desperate, we could see trades up to No. 1 and No. 2 (currently owned by Arizona and San Francisco) with the likes of Dwayne Haskins out of Ohio State, Drew Lock out of Missouri, Daniel Jones out of Duke, and Kyler Murray out of Oklahoma being the targets.

The bottom line: There is plenty of depth and talent on the offensive side of the ball this year. But Day 1 will almost certainly belong to defenders, and in particular the men on the front line will go very early.