Every team around the league expects to ace the NFL Draft. Unfortunately, only a handful of squads are able to do just that years down the road when we evaluate the annual event.
This year’s draft sees about one-third of NFL teams in position to ace the draft. Can the Oakland Raiders expedite their rebuild with three first-round picks? How will the Giants use the selections they acquired in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade?
These are among the 10 teams set to ace the 2019 NFL Draft later in April.
Selecting four times in the first 35 picks, including three times in the initial round, Jon Gruden and the Raiders absolutely must hit a home run during the draft. New general manager Mike Mayock knows this. The fan base knows this. It’s time for Oakland to expedite its rebuild before heading to Vegas in 2020.
The good news here is that these Raiders have a ton of holes to fill on both sides of the ball. Outside of going quarterback No. 4 overall, the team can take the best player available. That tends to lead to success on draft day.
New York Giants
We can question the Odell Beckham Jr. trade all we want. It’s worth questioning. But now heading into the draft, general manager David Gettleman has an opportunity to make his mark on this rebuilding roster.
New York boasts two selections within the top 17 and a total of three selections in the top 40. Outside of running back and tight end, the Giants have needs all over the field. Could they go quarterback at No. 6? Maybe. If so, the Giants would finally have that heir apparent to Eli Manning. If not, best player available has to be the mantra here.
New England Patriots
Taking full advantage of the NFL’s compensatory pick formula, the defending Super Bowl champions have six picks within the first three rounds. With draft-day magician Bill Belichick calling the shots, New England has an opportunity to move up the draft for a player of its choosing.
We’re highly intrigued to see how this goes. The Pats have needs at tight end and wide receiver on offense. Both are extremely deep in terms of the draft. Defensively, New England could use a long-term replacement out on the edge for Trey Flowers. That’s another incredibly deep position.
Green Bay Packers
By simply moving down in the first round of last year’s draft, general manager Brian Gutekunst picked up the 30th selection in this year’s draft. This gives Green Bay a real opportunity to be aggressive should the team decide to move up from its original 12th slot in Round 1.
Gutekunst’s ability to be proactive in free agency has certainly helped matters here. By virtue of adding pass rushers Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith as well as safety Adrian Amos, Green Bay can almost target a specific player in a trade up or go best player available with its two first-round selections.
Indianapolis is in a fine position after earning a surprise playoff appearance last season. General manager Chris Ballard traded down in the top 10 last year, picking up stud guard Quenton Nelson in the process. This netted the Colts an additional top-35 selection in the 2019 NFL Draft.
While the Colts themselves were not terribly active in free agency, they did add edge rusher Justin Houston at a need position. Like most of the teams here, this gives them an ability to go best player available. With needs at wide receiver and cornerback, Indy has set itself up nice to ace the draft.
By merely retaining core free agents such as Brandon Graham and Ronald Darby, the Eagles were able to address needs before free agency really got going. Signing DeSean Jackson and Malik Jackson were also huge coups. Heck, Howie Roseman might have pulled off the best move of the offseason by trading for running back Jordan Howard. That was certainly a huge need.
The better news here? Philadelphia has an additional second-round pick by virtue of a trade with the Baltimore Ravens last year. That means Roseman and Co. boast three of the top-57 selections. With few holes to fill, this team can address major needs while gaining good value.
Houston is in an interesting situation in that it does have some major needs if the team wants to be taken seriously as title contenders next season. Who is the No. 2 receiver behind DeAndre Hopkins? Free-agent signing Matt Kalil can’t possibly be the answer at left tackle, right? These are two areas the Texans will have to address.
The good news here is that Houston boasts an additional second-round pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. That gives the team an ability to move up from the 23rd overall selection in the first round. Could someone like D.K. Metcalf or A.J. Brown be the answer behind Nuke?
San Francisco 49ers
Normally a team coming off a four-win campaign with only six total selections wouldn’t find itself on this list. That’s until we realize the 49ers are sitting pretty at No. 2 overall. They addressed some needs with edge rusher Dee Ford and linebacker Kwon Alexander in free agency.
Equally as important, GM John Lynch and Co. have no need for a quarterback with the second pick. This affords San Francisco a real ability to gain a ton of draft-pick assets in a potential trade-down scenario with a quarterback-needy team. If not, the draft’s top overall player, Ohio State’s Nick Bosa, could fall on to their lap.
We really like what new Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta was able to do in his first free agency period in that role. DeCosta targeted need positions at running back and safety. He found upgrades in the form of Mark Ingram and Earl Thomas, respectively.
This should help DeCosta ace his first draft in his new role. That’s only magnified by the fact that Baltimore has additional selections in the third and fourth round. Considering the team gave up its second-round pick in a trade for Lamar Jackson last year, that’s no small thing.
Even if Arizona were to go out there and select Kyler Murray No. 1 overall, the team would still be set up nicely throughout the remainder of the draft. It’s not an ideal scenario. Arizona picked Josh Rosen in the top 10 last year. Going quarterback early in consecutive drafts is a bad look for general manager Steve Keim.
In no way does this mean the Cardinals can’t acquire draft pick assets for Rosen should they draft Murray. Add in the top selection in each round, and Keim has an opportunity to overcome recent personnel struggles.