The 2019 NFL Draft was a tremendous illustration of the ancient saying, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” as teams around the league picked “their guys.”
Certainly, every team thinks it won the draft. We’re not on board with that notion.
Instead, we saw some amazing bargains, and some jaw-dropping reaches, taking place during the seven rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Steal: Drew Lock No. 42 overall to Denver
A player many had pegged as a top-10 pick, Lock slid out of the first round and into Day 2 as teams took aim at cornerbacks, offensive tackles and receivers early in Round 2. John Elway came to the rescue, nabbing a player many thought he’d be taking with the No. 10 overall pick.
Lock has mechanical issues to work through, and he tends to throw into coverage at times due to his rocket arm. Yet he was still a top-3 quarterback in this year’s draft. Landing him here was a coup for Denver.
Reach: Dexter Lawrence No. 17 overall to New York
Lawrence is a nose tackle. He’s also a darn good player who has a chance to become an elite run defender at the NFL level. But he isn’t going to get into the backfield much on passing downs.
Giants general manager Dave Gettleman is as old school as they come. He proved it once more with this selection, which just isn’t a good value. In today’s game, run-stuffing defensive tackles aren’t valued like top pass rushers. Montez Sweat was still on the board. So was defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons, who is much better against the pass. Taking Lawrence here was a huge reach.
Steal: Greedy Williams No. 46 overall to Cleveland
Williams’ slide into the middle of Round 2 was a stunning development that not many people saw coming. As he slid, the big justification most turned to was that he doesn’t tackle with much consistency.
Still, Williams was one of the best cover corners in the draft and has the prototypical length and size teams look for. When Cleveland finally did take him, general manager John Dorsey was asked about the tackling issue and responded by saying, “Corners are paid to cover.” Couldn’t agree more.
Reach: Tytus Howard No. 23 overall to Houston
Everyone wants to compare Alabama State’s Howard to Terron Armstead. The New Orleans Saints selected Armstead out of Arkansas-Pine Bluff back in 2013. Both are small-school stars. The big difference is that Armstead was a third-round pick.
Howard, who has the potential to become great, is very raw and could struggle early in his career. With the likes of Jawaan Taylor and Cody Ford still on the board, taking Howard in Round 1 was risky — putting it mildly — considering Houston’s desperate need for immediate impact players on the offensive line.
Steal: Chase Winovich No. 77 overall to New England
A player most draft analysts had as a top-50 player (some had him rated much higher), Winovich falling right into Bill Belichick’s lap is pure poetry. We’re talking about a prospect who might just slide right into New England’s starting lineup as an effective replacement for Trey Flowers, who got $90 million from Detroit in free agency.
Winovich does so many things well. He isn’t an elite pass rusher like Nick Bosa or Josh Allen. Yet he can certainly bring the heat from the edge (53 pressures last year) and is an elite run defender. Throw in his relentless motor and you’re looking at a guy who epitomizes Belichickian football to a T.
Reach: L.J. Collier No. 29 overall to Seattle
The Seahawks had to upgrade their pass rush after trading Frank Clark to Kansas City. Just don’t call Collier a replacement. The thing Seattle is probably excited about is that the 6-foot-2, 283-pound Collier can play all over the line. They love to have guys who are versatile. No doubt they are excited about landing him at the end of Round 1.
In our book, he’s a second-round talent — at best. Collier is not an explosive player. He isn’t going to burn offensive tackles off the edge and is perhaps better suited to playing the run than rushing the passer.
Steal: Justin Layne No. 83 overall to Pittsburgh
Much like Winovich landing in New England, Layne is a perfect fit in Pittsburgh. He is similarly a huge steal at No. 83 overall being the second-best pure cover corner in the draft behind first-rounder DeAndre Baker.
On Saturday, respected ESPN analyst Louis Riddick opined that Layne could be Pittsburgh’s top corner in short order. We enthusiastically second that. He’s a tall (6-foot-2), long corner who excels in man coverage. He could be an instant starter, and star, in the NFL.
Reach: Drew Sample No. 52 overall to Cincinnati
Here’s how much of a reach this was: Even Sample was surprised to be selected this early in the draft.
A player who specializes in run blocking, Sample is not likely to dominate in the passing game for the Bengals. He caught just 25 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns last year for Washington. Players like this should not be priorities in Round 2, especially when considering the talent that was selected after he was.
Steal: Hakeem Butler No. 103 to Arizona
One of my personal favorite wide receivers both throughout the 2018 college football season and in the draft, Butler going atop the fourth round was wild. A 6-foot-5, 227-pound physical freak who ran his 40 in 4.48 seconds and has a 7-foot wingspan, Butler is a big-play machine.
During his final year at Iowa State, Butler racked up 1,318 yards and nine touchdowns on just 60 receptions. He’ll have a specific role in Arizona’s offense and could explode as a rookie.
Reach: Clelin Ferrell No. 4 overall to Oakland
Perhaps Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock will be justified one day for selecting Ferrell with the fourth overall pick. Obviously they love his game, and Mayock said Thursday that the Raiders had Ferrell right up there with Nick Bosa in terms of draft grading. From a production standpoint at Clemson, Ferrell was fantastic. He tallied 27 sacks and 50 tackles for a loss the past three seasons for the Tigers.
Yet two things stand out that give us pause: First, he isn’t a freaky athlete like other top pass rushers. Secondly, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins was the player who caused the most havoc on Clemson’s defensive line, opening up opportunities for Ferrell on the edge.
Then, of course, there’s the simple fact that Oakland almost certainly would have gotten a ton more value by trading down and still drafting Ferrell later in Round 1.
Steal: Kris Boyd No. 217 overall to Minnesota
This strong, tough, experienced cornerback was expected by some to be a Day 2 pick. Instead, he slid all the way into the final round of the draft until the Minnesota Vikings — a team known for taking corners early — snapped him up early in Round 7.
Boyd has decent size, put together a rock-solid combine and has plenty of good tape showing he can do it all on the field. He’s facing an uphill climb to make an impact in Minnesota but could end up being the steal of the draft if he does.
Reach: Jahlani Tavai No. 43 overall to Detroit
Here’s now much of a reach Tavai was on Friday evening: The ESPN broadcasting crew didn’t even bother talking about him after Detroit took him with the 11th pick of the second round. On top of that, Lance Zierlen of NFL.com pegged Tavai as a potential backup or special teamer with a Round 4-5 grade.
Now, analysts get players wrong every single year. Perhaps the former Hawaii star will become an NFL star. Yet it’s notable that pretty much nobody had Tavai going anywhere close to the second day of the draft, let alone early in Round 2.
Steal: Montez Sweat No. 26 overall to Washington
A heart condition that was reportedly misdiagnosed caused Sweat’s stock to slide, and some teams took him off their board altogether. It’s really a shame, because it cost Sweat millions of dollars.
Washington made a savvy move to trade up with Indianapolis in the first round to take the Mississippi State product. He’s not only a physical freak of the highest order, but Sweat was highly productive in the SEC. He racked up 22.5 sacks and 30 tackles for a loss the past two years in college and should be an instant-impact starter for Washington.
Reach: Daniel Jones No. 6 overall to New York
This was by far the biggest reach of the entire 2019 NFL Draft. For what it’s worth, we ranked Jones as the fifth-best quarterback in this year’s draft class. There were whispers that Gettleman could take Jones with the 17th overall pick. When he took him No. 6 overall — making Jones the second quarterback off the board — Giants fans everywhere curled up into the fetal position and sobbed.
Jones isn’t a special player. He has adequate physical traits and looks the part. Yet he is slow too process what defenses throw his way, and that will only become a bigger problem as a pro. Ultimately, this could be the pick that finally gets Gettleman fired.