Updated: May 8, 2019
By: Zach Zook
Well, it would appear as though the time has come. Almost to the day, the NFL Draft is again upon us and hundreds of athletes are about to have their dreams come true on a stage in Nashville, Tennessee. This is my second year writing this column, and my goal at the end of it is to help make sense of a process that is so utterly confusing no matter who you are or how much time you invest into watching the product. The first round, which will consist of 32 picks, will air tonight – And unless you’re a football die-hard like me, this is the only night you’ll even think about watching.
This year’s draft is much different than a year ago. We don’t have the same infusion of franchise-changing quarterback talent at the top of the draft as we did last spring, and although quarterbacks will of course be chosen, this year is all about the defensive line at the top. Teams with multiple picks in the first round include the Raiders (3), Seahawks (2), Packers (2), and Giants (2), while teams without any include the Saints, Browns, Bears, Cowboys, and Chiefs.
There are several interesting storylines heading into the draft tonight, the biggest X-factor being Raiders Head Coach Jon Gruden. He holds the keys to the kingdom and is a complete wild card. He sent home all of the scouts before the draft citing trust issues because they supposedly have a “big surprise” for their first pick at #4. He also holds the most picks in the first round of any team, and therefore has a ton of flexibility to trade and draft whoever he pleases. There are reports he loves Kyler Murray, who is projected to be drafted first by the Cardinals.
The Giants are also a huge storyline tonight. They hold two picks, again need to draft the heir to Eli Manning, and again nobody has any idea if they’ll actually do it. They would seemingly be in prime position to land Dwayne Haskins from Ohio State but have been reported as not being in love with his skill set. Will they take Daniel Jones with their second pick? Or not draft any QB’s and hand the ball off to Saquon Barkley 9-trillion times next year. Sadly, I get a sinking feeling the latter is most possible.
The draft-day trade is always an intriguing scenario as well. It’s not just the college kids with their future on line, but pros as well. Cardinals QB Josh Rosen appears to be on the auction block tonight if Arizona stands pat and drafts Murray first overall. We already saw the Chiefs make a splash giving up their first round pick to Seattle for Frank Clark. Other pros that could be on the move include Derek Carr if Oakland takes a QB, WR Nelson Agholor, and Chris Harris Jr. of Denver.
Other teams that could make a QB splash in the first round include the Broncos, Dolphins, Redskins, Bengals, and potentially even the Packers. The question now becomes who will be brave enough to submit the pick? There is a QB-rich draft around the bend in 2020 with Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert, and others expected to be included so will some of these teams wait out the storm in hopes of a whale next year? We’re about to find out.
Storylines I always find intriguing are about the players themselves. Montez Sweat out of MSU was a projected top-10 pick tonight until doctors found out he has an enlarged heart. How far will he slide and if he is cleared to play, and how big of a steal could he be in 5 years? His teammate Jeffery Simmons is another defensive star that could slip down the board due to an off-field incident and injury sustained in college.
Tonight is like Christmas for football fans. You get to see all of these kids achieve their dreams of playing in the NFL, and from the team perspective everyone is about to receive several shiny new toys for the fall. Remember: the name of the game for GM’s tonight is value. Picks will be flying, players will be plucked, and course of franchises will be forever changed tonight. Let’s do it.