The 2019 NFL draft is in the books, and it is therefore the appropriate time to analyze something we won’t fully understand for at least another three years. We are going to start with the AFC East. There was a running theme in the division for the first round: interior pass rusher. This pertains to all non-New England franchises. The division seemed obsessed with putting heat on Tom Brady from the middle of the field. There is also a reasonable argument to be made that in each instance all three teams selected the best player available.
Isn’t it just wonderful when need, strategy and value all line up? Well, let’s look at whether or not that is actually the case. The AFC East as a whole had at the worst competent draft performances, and overall looks solid.
9th pick (9th overall) – DT Ed Oliver, Houston
Leading up to the draft, there were reports that every team picking 3rd-9th had all of a sudden fallen in love with Oliver. Both the Jets defensive coordinator and general manager we’re in love. The Falcons were said to be desperately attempting to move up in order to secure the interior disruptor.
The Bills were also a team linked to Oliver the week of the draft. They played this properly and, with a little bit of luck, it worked out entirely. With Oakland, New York (Giants), and Detroit going off the rails in front of Buffalo, the Bills walked away with their top target.
Oliver is an uber athletic interior defender that was miscast as a zero-tech far too often at Houston. Some may be concerned about his size, but if Oliver can improve how he uses his hands he should become a very successful NFL player. The Bills sat tight and got a good value to begin their draft. And Tom Brady now hates AFC East games just a little bit more.
6th pick (38th overall) – OT Cody Ford, Oklahoma
This pick was acquired in a trade with Oakland. The Bills sent #40 and #158 to move up two spots to #38. In the process Buffalo forfeited 2.1 points of draft capital based on the Chase Stuart draft chart, which is the equivalent of the 165 pick. I only like trading up in a select few specific instances, but this is functionally a nominal price to pay to get a guy at the top of the second round that had a first round grade.
In fact, the Bills tried like hell to move up even higher in order to secure Ford. Despite being unsuccessful, Buffalo once again ended up with their primary target. It will be interesting to see where the Bills first place Ford along their line. Given positional value, he should get his initial reps at tackle. However, the Bills poured financial resources into their offensive line this offseason, so it remains to be seen what their plan is for Ford. For what it’s worth, Ford was announced as a tackle.
Overall this is a good pick. Ford plays a premium position and, despite being worth with a first round pick, was obtained in the second round. The team traded up to secure him but the cost to do so was low. Josh Allen appreciates this pick.
10th pick (74th overall) – RB Devin Singletary, Florida Atlantic
This is simply a weird selection. Clearly Buffalo wants to get younger at the position, but they already had a crowded back field. The team has added T.J. Yeldon and Frank Gore behind LeSean McCoy. While Gore and McCoy are in their 30’s and Yeldon has never lit the world on fire, this isn’t an optimal use of resources. The Bills could have looked to get younger at running back much later in the draft or in 2020, and either taken a superior prospect here or tried to fill a need.
Despite the free agent spending spree, Allen needs more receiving weapons. Receivers such as Terry McLaurin, Miles Boykin, Hakeem Butler, and Riley Ridley were all available at this pick. Similarly, Jace Sternberger was the next selection by the Green Bay Packers. There were plenty of corners – David Long, Justin Layne, Julian Love – that could have formed a nice long-term pairing with Tre’Davious White.
32nd pick (96th overall) – TE Dawson Knox, Ole Miss
Proof Buffalo still viewed tight end as a position to address in the draft. Knox is a lot of projection compared to the aforementioned Sternberger, as Sternberger was highly productive at Texas A&M. Knox has the requisite athleticism but is relatively new to the position and plagued by below average hands. The Bills passed on a superior tight end prospect earlier in the round to lock up an unnecessary running back. At least they threw a dart at the position and don’t view Tyler Kroft as a the future.
5th pick (147th overall) – LB Vosean Joseph, Florida
This is a great pick. Most expected Joseph to go at least a round higher than this. Joseph is quick twitch linebacker that could have gone off the board in the top 100 picks. He flashes high end plays but is very inconsistent. He has a natural feel moving downhill avoiding traffic, and his athleticism gives optimism he can excel in coverage.
8th pick (181st overall) – S Jaquan Johnson, Miami
There isn’t a ton to say here as this is a standard sixth round pick. Johnson has all the intangibles you look for and was a leader of the dominate 2017 Miami defense. His physical limitations relegate him to a potential locker room/special teams guy. Those are the types of guys that go off the board in the sixth round so this pick just makes sense.
11th pick (225th overall) – LB Darryl Johnston Jr., North Carolina A&T
14th pick (228th overall) – TE Tommy Sweeney, Boston College
The Bills didn’t panic in the first round and landed their top target without having to move up. They paid a small price in the second round to go up for a first round quality offensive lineman. After an uninspiring two picks in the third, Buffalo found value in the fifth round with a highly athletic linebacker, before rounding out the draft with standard sixth and seven round picks. The AFC East is wide open behind the Patriots and there’s no reason the Bills can’t come in second within the division.
13th pick (13th overall) – DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
This is a mixed bag. For the second consecutive season, the Dolphins sat where they were and took a rock solid defender after the chaos took place in front of their pick. Last year two teams, including an AFC East rival, traded ahead of Miami to secure a quarterback. As a result, the Dolphins walked away with Minkah Fitzpatrick. This year Miami sat tight and landed Wilkins. Wilkins figures to be a good pro, and he has the added benefit of being an interior disruptor, something Mr. Brady despises. Another AFC East selection Brady didn’t like when it happened.
On the flip slide, not only was Wilkins probably not the best player on the board, arguably the best player available would have hit a massive need. It is shocking that the Dolphins bypassed Andre Dillard with this pick. He was at worst the second best player available, plays a premium position, and hits a major area of weakness for Miami. The team cannot be criticized too much for taking a good player in lieu of a more logical selection, but to me it is a head scratcher.
QB Josh Rosen + New Orleans’ 2020 second round pick
Miami absolutely nailed this. It cannot be stressed enough how masterfully they handled this. Once New York and Washington each left the first round with a quarterback, the trade market for Rosen dried up to a single team. Reports were Miami and Arizona worked on a trade overnight between the day one and day two of the draft, centered around the Dolphins’ second round pick, 48th overall. At a certain point there was a hang up in those negotiations. At the time I opined on Twitter the “stagn[ation]” was likely due to Miami realizing they were bidding against themselves and subsequently dropping their offer to their third rounder.
The Dolphins took advantage of the Saints’ mortgage-the-future tendencies to move down from 48 to 62 while picking up a 2020 second rounder in the process. Miami then sent the 62nd pick and a 2020 fifth rounder for Rosen. If the 2020 picks are the same as this year (number 62 for New Orleans, and 151 for Miami) then the Dolphins will profit 4 points worth of draft capital. In other words, Miami not only obtained Josh Rosen in this double move, but they created the 122nd pick out of thin air.
The 2018 quarterback prospect that was Josh Rosen would have been the second best quarterback in this class behind Murray. Instead of spending the 6th (crying laughing emoji face) or 15th pick on an inferior quarterback prospect, the Dolphins sent a pick that is barely a second rounder for Rosen. Furthermore, Rosen only has $6.2 million of guaranteed money left on his deal. Should Miami want to move on in 2020, they can easily do so.
This was the single best maneuver of the entire draft.
14th pick (78th overall) – OG Michael Deiter, Wisconsin
This was a reach by a full round, and the team bypassed superior guard prospects. Additionally, at this juncture, both Chuma Edoga and Yodny Cajuste would have be interesting dart throws at the tackle position. Oddly enough, Edoga and Cajuste ended up on AFC East rosters, so if Miami really did blow this, they’re going to have to live through four in person reminders every season.
Deiter is a guard that excels in run blocking but has serious question marks as to how well he can protect Rosen. After watching how hampered Rosen was last year in Arizona by poor offensive line play, you’d imagine the Dolphins would target offensive lineman that specialize in pass blocking. While commendable the team targeted upgrading the offensive line, this is the second instance of the team passing on a superior offensive tackle prospect for the guy they wanted.
13th pick (151st overall) – LB Andrew Van Ginkel, Wisconsin
At best this is a round and a half too high. Ginkel is an explosive athlete so perhaps he can stick to the roster as a situational rusher and special teams player. Overall this is just a poor choice.
29th pick (202nd overall) – OT Isaiah Prince, Ohio State
Three straight selections from the Big Ten. Prince fits the range here and is a physical traits developmental prospect. I can appreciate throwing a dart on upgrading Rosen’s protection at this point in the draft.
19th pick (233rd overall) – FB Chandler Cox, Auburn
20th pick (234th overall) – RB Myles Gaskin, Washington
I really wish Miami had just thrown two darts at offensive lineman here. There is a low probability of either making the roster, and the Dolphins have one of the three worst lines in the NFL.
The Rosen trade is buoying an otherwise so-so draft. The Wilkins pick was solid, but passing on Dillard is nearly inexplicable. To round out day two, Miami reached on a run blocking guard. The team didn’t make another selection until the fifth round, and their last three picks would have been better spent throwing darts at a horrendous offensive front.
The Rosen trade, however, is beautiful. I said it was the single best maneuver of the entire draft and I stand by that. The Dolphins turned the 48th pick and a 2020 fifth rounder into the 2018 10th overall pick on a cheap-o contract and a 2020 second. Just beautiful.
And if Rosen doesn’t work out, Miami is stocked with 2020 draft capital to go up and get their guy should that be necessary. Similar to the Bills, Miami has an opportunity to finish second in the AFC East in 2019 with Rosen.
New England Patriots
I don’t want to reinvent the wheel. I broke down the Patriots’ draft over at ProFootballNetwork, so I’m primarily copy pasting here.
32nd pick (32nd overall) – WR N’Keal Harry, Arizona State
Harry appears to be a reach at a need position, something New England rarely does. Belichick believes reaching for a need still leaves you with the same need, while bypassing superior prospects. Most draft analysts don’t even believe Harry was even the best available at his position.
New England made Harry the second receiver off the board on draft night. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com had Harry as the 6th best receiver in the draft. Harry was the 8th best receiver available in the eyes of ProFootballFocus. Dane Brugler of The Athletic had Harry in the back half of the top ten. (The Athletic is behind a paywall and we cannot divulge the actual ranking).
The biggest issue with Harry as a prospect is his inability to separate from college defensive backs. Harry is a contested catch monster that wins 50/50 balls. The problem is there isn’t much of a successful track record of college receivers dependent upon that one particular skill transitioning into the NFL.
That being said, Harry is a reliable target that posted back to back 1,000-yard campaigns before entering the draft. How Harry produces in the NFL will be significantly dependent upon how his coaches scheme around his skillset. However, that shouldn’t be an issue in his new home.
13th (45th overall) – CB Joejuan Williams, Vanderbilt
Here is the bizarre trade up in the second round. The Patriots sent the 56th and 101st picks to the Los Angeles Rams in order to get up to #45 to select Williams. In the process, the Patriots forfeited 3.8 points worth of draft capital according to the Chase Stuart draft chart. For context, the 126th pick is worth 3.8 points.
Cornerback isn’t much a need, although drafting for need is a fool’s errand, as the team runs three deep with Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, and J.C. Jackson. 2018 second round pick Duke Dawson is still a complete unknown. Dawson missed his entire rookie year due to injury.
This selection could be in anticipation of having to replace McCourty after 2019, or perhaps even Patrick Chung. Williams is a massive press-man cornerback (the Patriots preferred coverage scheme) but lacks the long speed to stick with outside receivers down the sidelines. His profile does, however, indicate he can be used as a matchup weapon against tight ends.
Two other cornerbacks came off the board after Williams and before the New England’s original draft slot of 56th overall. While Greedy Williams was a top three cornerback in the draft, Lonnie Johnson Jr. was a reach on behalf of the Houston Texans. Point being, while examined with the benefit of hindsight, Greedy Williams’ status as a top three cornerback and the Texans’ presumed love for Johnson indicate the Patriots could have landed Joejuan Williams at 56 and avoided trading up. Even if Joejuan Williams were to have been selected prior to the Patriots picking at 56, historical draft data indicates all the corners taken in this cluster of the draft have approximately an equal chance of panning out.
It’s impossible to have too many cornerbacks, but this is just a bad trade.
13th (77th overall) – Edge Chase Winovich, Michigan
[Insert siren emojis here] STEAL OF THE DRAFT ALERT [Repeat siren emojis]
Despite aggressively addressing the receiver position, New England stayed patient in regards to adding another EDGE rusher. The patience was rewarded in conjuncture with the rest of the NFL’s ineptitude.
Winovich was the more productive college EDGE defender between himself and the much more hyped Rashan Gary. Winovich finished as the 29th overall player on the PFF big board, yet lasted until pick 77.
He comes to the Patriots off back-to-back seasons with grades over 90.0- the only such qualifying Power-5 player in the draft class to do so. Winovich is a highly athletic edge that posted a 1.57 10-yard split, 4.59 40-yard dash, and 6.94 3-cone shuttle at the combine while measuring 6’2″ and 256 pounds. His last two seasons saw him rack up 15 sacks, 28 quarterback hits, and 66 total pressures on just 687 pass rushing snaps. And he is not just a pass rusher, as Winovich ranked second in the draft class among his position in run-stop percentage last season.
Winovich’s athleticism gives credence to the idea that he can take snaps at linebacker. This potential positional versatility surely caught the eye of Belichick. This is also yet another example of Belichick tapping into a college program where he believes there is elite coaching.
23rd (87th overall) – RB Damien Harris, Alabama
Speaking of programs with elite coaching, New England made one of the more head-scratching selections of the entire draft with Harris. Last year’s choice of Sony Michel in the first round was befuddling, as no team in the NFL has gotten more mileage out of the “you can find a running back anywhere” philosophy than the Patriots. Yet, the team used their first-round pick on a running back despite coming off a Super Bowl loss in which the defense allowed approximately 80 billion yards and 17,000 points.
In 2018, however, New England rode a three back monster to a Super Bowl victory. The trio of Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead are all perfectly complementary to each other. Additionally, the team has special teams standout Brandon Bolden buried on the depth chart.
Ergo, this pick makes no sense. Harris profiles to be a hammer, which is Burkhead’s current role. Harris may be Burkhead’s eventual replacement, but Burkhead’s contract runs through 2020. The team can save $3 million in 2020 by releasing Burkhead, but the Patriots could have drafted his replacement next year.
This pick just doesn’t do much to move the needle in 2019 as New England seeks to repeat as champions.
37th (101st overall) -OT Yodny Cajuste, West Virginia
This is the perfect pick. The Patriots understand the value of continuously stocking mid-round developmental offensive line prospects. With Isaiah Wynn missing his entire rookie season and Marcus Cannon constantly injured, New England needed young blood in the tackle pipeline. Additionally, swing tackle Cameron Fleming left for the Dallas Cowboys and 2017 third-round pick Antonio Garcia flamed out with the team after a single season.
Cajuste is built to be a left tackle and has the quick feet and lateral quickness to protect the edge. He has starting potential if he can eliminate the undisciplined aspects of his game. Luckily, he landed with the best offensive line coach in the NFL.
16th (118th overall) – OG Hjalte Froholdt, Arkansas
Another developmental offensive lineman to pump into the pipeline. Dante Scarnecchia gets a second upside lineman to mold behind the scenes.
At 118, Froholdt is a fantastic value. Froholdt played both guard and center while at Arkansas, and allowed only five pressures in 2018. He ranked 3rd in the draft class among guards in pass-blocking efficiency per PFF. His former head coach, Bret Bielema, is a defensive consultant for the Patriots. One imagines the team had the best possible intel on Froholdt in the draft.
31st (133rd overall) – QB Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Again, another perfect pick. While unrefined, Stidham has wonderful traits and immense potential. A late fourth-round pick is a perfect time to take a developmental quarterback prospect to develop behind the scenes.
21st (159th overall) – DT Byron Cowart, Maryland
Cowart was at one point in time the top high school recruit in the nation. After initially attending Auburn, Cowart transferred to Maryland to move back home due to health concerns with his mother. Cowart has an NFL-ready frame and is a heavy puncher, but he provides no pass rush and lacks any natural burst.
25th (163rd overall) – P Jake Bailey, Stanford
This is a typical Belichick move. He views the 5th round as players that are long shots to make the roster, so he believes there is value in targeting special teams members. The odd part is that Bailey is right-footed, as Belichick notoriously only deploys left-footed punters because the rotation of the ball is the opposite of what the opposing punt returner is used to.
38th (252nd overall) – CB Ken Webster, Ole Miss
Webster is a very athletic cornerback, posting a 1.55 10-yard split, 4.43 40-yard dash, 6.85 3-cone drill, 43″ vertical, and 11’01” broad jump at the combine. Throwing a dart like this with the third to last pick of the draft is the right move.
The Patriots hit their biggest need with their initial selection, it just happened to be a reach. The deviation from the standard operating procedures immediately continued, as New England traded up in the second round to secure a cornerback they most likely could have gotten at their original slot.
After nabbing a potential steal of the draft with a much-needed pass rusher in the third round, the Patriots decided to throw their second third-round pick in the trash can by selecting a running back they don’t need. That selection was followed by three developmental prospects, two on the offensive line and a quarterback.
After that Belichick simply grabbed players he liked to round out the final three picks, spanning two selections in the fifth round and one in the seventh.
All told this draft was mostly successful. Of the seven trades, four of them were trades downward. The team received both the Winovich and Froholdt picks in exchange for #64. That trade created a profit of 3 points worth of draft capital, the equivalent of the 142nd pick of the draft. The team received a 2020 4th round pick from the Chicago Bears in another trade. And in a Belichick special, New England traded down four spots from 97 to 101, still landed Cajuste, and moved up 29 spots later in the draft from 162 to 133. That selection at 133 netted Jarrett Stidham.
Draft Grade: B-
New York Jets
3rd pick (3rd overall) – DT Quinnen Williams, Alabama
This is an interesting peak into the Jets’ draft philosophy. Williams was either their highest rated player, viewed as the best scheme fit, or both. The positional value selection would have been Josh Allen. Given the reporting on the team’s infatuation with Ed Oliver, its possible they were intent on getting a disruptor in the middle of their defensive line with this pick.
This was the initial example on draft night of an AFC East team taking an interior pass rusher, much to the chagrin of Brady. There’s no need to over analyze this selection. Some had Williams as the best player in the entire draft, and New York just sat where they were and took the highest rated player on their board.
The only thing I’m curious about is the trade offers they received for this pick. We know the Jets wanted to move down due to the Darnold trade depleting their draft resources, but apparently they didn’t get an offer worth moving off this pick. Perhaps the offers really weren’t that good. Perhaps they valued Williams so highly they passed up a good offer others would have taken. We will never know, but I’m curious.
4th pick (68th overall) – Edge Jachai Polite, Florida
I love this pick. After eschewing the edge rushing option in the first round, New York comes back with an edge defender that once upon a time was slated to go in the first round. Polite had a productive 2018, raking up 10 sacks and 25 hurries on only 250 pass rushing snaps.
Polite plummeted down the board due to poor workout numbers. After bombing the combine with a 4.84 40 and a 1.71 10-yard split, Polite posted a 5.04 40 at his pro day. After posting a 32 inch vertical at the combine as well, he pulled out of the remaining tests due to a hamstring injury. Polite alleges the hamstring was still bothering him during his pro day.
The numbers above are clear red flags. However, Polite has natural bend and a lot of nuance to his game. The Jets’ plan is pretty clear: Bring the heat against Brady.
28th pick (92nd overall) – OT Chuma Edoga, USC
This is a really good pick. It’s good value for this point in the draft, and an investment in Darnold’s protection is always wise. Edoga has things to clean up, but he is already good in pass protection. In his final two seasons at USC, Edoga allowed only six pressures on 634 pass blocking snaps.
19th pick (121st overall) – TE Trevon Wesco, West Virginia
In a poor tight end class, the Jets reached for one here. New York just can’t get out of its own way sometimes. Everything was going well prior to this selection. Taking a tight end too high in the fourth isn’t the end of the world, but there were much better players available.
19th pick (157th overall) – LB Blake Cashman, Minnesota
This is an absolute steal. Cashman should have gone off the board in the third round, and here we are in the middle of the fifth. Cashman lit up the combine with a 4.50 40, 1.55 10-yard split, 37.5 inch vertical, 124 inch broad jump, and 6.95 3-cone. He showed well in run defense, pass coverage, and as a pass rusher in 2018.
23rd pick (196th overall) – CB Blessuan Austin, Rutgers
Austin fits the range and you can never have too many corners.
The Jets didn’t find a trade to move off the third pick so they stayed put and took the best player available. They then wound up with two potential steals in the third round at premium positions. The fourth round pick was weird but they recovered with a huge steal in the fifth. Despite the limited draft capital New York should feel good about who they were able to walk away with from this class.