TJ Hockenson

NFC North 2019 NFL Draft Analysis

Welcome to the NFC North draft analysis. In case you’ve missed the previous installments of our draft analysis series, be sure to catch up and check out all the action.

Chicago Bears

Round Three

9th pick (73rd overall) – RB David Montgomery, Iowa State

Chicago came into the draft having already traded away their first two picks. Despite the limited draft capital, they somehow deemed it a good idea to trade up in the third round for a running back. In order to jump up to 73, Chicago sent 87, 162, and a 2020 fourth rounder for 73 and 205. If the Bears’ pick in 2020 lands in the same spot as this year (126) New England will end up profiting 4.2 points worth of draft capital according to the Chase Stuart draft chart. The 118th pick is worth 4.2 points.

Put another way, despite the limit amount of selections, Chicago threw a mid fourth round pick in the trash to go up and get a running as their first selection of 2019. That is terrible. David Montgomery himself is fine. He belongs in this range and he had plenty of backers saying he was the second best running back in this class. He is a PFF darling as he broke an immense number of tackles in 2018.

Still, this is poor asset management and strategic roster building. Despite the success the Bears had in 2018, this feels like a luxury pick they weren’t in a position to make.

Round Four

24th pick (126th overall) – WR Riley Ridley, Georgia

One of the steals of the draft. Ridley should have gone on day two and could have found a way to sneak into round two. A route technician, Ridley should be able to make an impact his rookie season. For what it’s worth, I screamed at my television (as a Patriot fan) during four Patriots picks, begging them to choose Ridley. It didn’t happen. This is a fantastic pick.

Round Six

32nd pick (205th overall) – CB Duke Shelley, Kansas State

Round Seven

8th pick (222nd overall) – RB Kerrith Whyte Jr., Florida Atlantic

Yes, because Chicago desperately needed to take another running back.

24th pick (238th overall) – CB Stephen Denmark, Valdosta State


There isn’t much to say about the Bears draft. Part of that is because they had already shipped their picks out of town. Their first rounder was involved in the Khalil Mack trade, while their second rounder was part of a trade up last year with New England.

We now have the final tally on the latter trade. In 2018, Chicago sent the 105th pick of the 2018 draft, and the 56th pick of the 2019 draft, in exchange for the 51st pick in 2018, which was then used to select Anthony Miller. The math on this almost works out to the face value of the picks. The Patriots profited 4.4 points worth of draft capital, the equivalent of the 114th selection. Basically, New England got a fourth rounder to move down five spots in the second round. Awful for the Bears.

In keeping with the idea that Odell Beckham Jr., Frank Clark, and Amari Cooper are part of team’s 2019 draft hauls, Mack must be viewed as such as well. While I don’t like the way Chicago went about obtaining Mack – trading away premium assets to then hand someone a top of the market contract – he clearly makes an enormous impact on this defense.

The draft in isolation is underwhelming to say the least. The Bears made only two picks before the sixth round. They traded up for a running back. They got a steal in the fourth but that doesn’t do enough to counter balance the rest.

Khalil Mack is doing a lot of leg work for this grade, and it’s still terrible.

Grade: D+

Detroit Lions

Round One

8th pick (8th overall) – TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa


Excuse me a moment while I take a victory lap. In every mock draft I published I projected this pick. I never moved off it. The logic was Hockenson is Gronk-light. Well, it would be fair to call him Gronk-ultra-light, only because no one can even compare with Gronkowski.

However, what Hockenson brings to the table is why Gronk broke defenses. Because Gronk was both an elite receiver and elite blocker, the defense was screwed as soon as he walked on the field. If you designated a safety to cover him, Brady would check into a run, and the offense would move the chains. If you put a linebacker over Gronk in an effort to stop the run, Brady would check into a pass, and Gronk would easily get open. Having Gronk on the field meant you already lost.

Hockenson isn’t near Gronk’s level in either facet, but he is good at both. Most tight ends in the NFL are a specialist in one area, so as soon as they come on the field it is a giveaway to the defense of what you plan to do. Not Hockenson.

the value

This is where it gets a little tricky. There’s an argument to be made that even elite tight end receiving production isn’t valuable enough over replacement level to warrant the 8th pick of the draft. And to build off that, Hockenson isn’t an elite receiver. I’m not sure if I am entirely on board with that, as the routes tight ends specialize in provide some of the highest completion rates in the passing game, and throwing to the tight end position results in a higher completion rates than throwing to a receiver.

There is also the idea that Detroit opted for the “safe” pick in Hockenson. The Lions could have really went for it by taking Ed Oliver, but we all peg Hockenson with the lower bust probability. Either one could bust, we don’t really know. We also need to manage expectations. Given Oliver’s, hype if he doesn’t turn into 85% of Aaron Donald we’re going to say he failed to meet expectations. Expecting any college kid to turn into 85% of Donald isn’t fair to that college kid.

Hockenson likely won’t put up the gaudy fantasy numbers at his position for us to say “yea, he was worth the 8th pick of his draft.” We also can’t quantitatively measure his impact in the philosophical way that Gronk breaks defenses outlined above. Hockenson won’t reach Gronk’s level as a receiver or a blocker, but being viable in both regards gives the Lions’ offense an advantage. If he becomes an average receiver and an elite blocker, what is that worth? What makes him safe is he will probably be at least decent in both areas, raising his floor as a prospect.

Get to the point

I think this a reach. I would have traded down if I was intent on getting Hockenson, although it is fair to wonder how far down you could have dropped and not risked losing him. Had I stayed at 8, I would have taken either Oliver or Burns. I do not, however, think this is an egregious reach, as Hockenson was a top 15 player in this class. He is also “safe,” whatever that means, and can give this offense an immediate advantage just from being on the field.

Round Two

11th pick (43rd overall) – LB Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii

Well, after moderately reaching in round one, Detroit got bold in round two. Tavai should have come off the board in the fourth. It was floated after the draft that Belichick and all the Belichick disciples were hot on Tavai, and Bill himself was eyeing him in the second. So the new rules of the NFL are 1. Hire a coach that was once standing in the same room as Sean McVay 2. Draft a quarterback because he kicks his feet in the shotgun pre-snap like Eli Manning and 3. Draft someone two rounds too high because there is a rumor out there that Belichick covets him.

At least these horrendous decision making processes allow a two-bit hack content creator like myself an opportunity to get some jokes off.

Round Three

17th pick (81st overall) – S Will Harris, Boston College

Detroit sent Minnesota picks 88 and 204 in order to jump seven spots and select Harris. Harris is a reach here, as he should have gone in the fourth. I also don’t get him coming off the board over Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Amani Hooker, Deionte Thompson, and Marvell Tell, in no particular order.

On the bright side, Harris is a phenomenal athlete. At the combine he ran a 4.41 40 with a 1.54 10-yard split, to go along with a 36.5″ vertical, 123″ broad jump, and a 6.91 3-cone. He is a box-safety first, but has the size and athleticism to match up with tight ends. Interestingly enough, prior to this selection the Vikings took Irv Smith Jr., and the Packers took Jace Sternberger. Additionally, Green Bay still has Jimmy Graham and added Marcedes Lewis, while the Bears have Trey Burton. This seems to be a niche area Detroit wanted to address.

On the negative side again, not only was Harris taken over superior safety prospects and was a reach, there is now two years with of evidence that the Lions are trying to build a team stuck in 1985, looking to load up on the run game both offensively and defensively.

Round Four

15th pick (117th overall) – Edge Austin Bryant, Clemson

Well, I guess we can credit the Lions for attempting to influence the passing game here. This is a reach, but Bryant did post 16.5 sacks over his last two seasons at Clemson. Bryant, however, is an all effort player that doesn’t bring much in the way of athletic traits.

Round Five

8th pick (146th overall) – CB Amani Oruwariye, Penn State

This is a major steal. Had Oruwariye been taken in the second round I wouldn’t have been surprised. The tall, long corner doesn’t have elite long speed, but has excellent movement skills. He has enough juice, evidenced by his 4.47 40, that he should be OK at the next level in that regard. His explosion numbers (1.56 10-yard split, 36.5″ vertical, 120″ broad jump, 6.82 3-cone) are all good or, in the case of his 3-cone, excellent. Additionally, Oruwariye is a high IQ player that was able to accumulate 13 batted passes the last two years.

Round Six

11th pick (184th overall) – WR Travis Fulgham, Old Dominion

13th pick (186th overall) – RB Ty Johnson, Maryland

Round Seven

10th pick (224th overall) – TE Isaac Nauta, Georgia


15th pick (229th overall) – DT PJ Johnson, Arizona


The Lions started off their draft with four reaches, despite me liking two of those players. That’s not great. The Tavai pick is egregious. Hockenson and Harris are good players, and Oruwariye is a major steal so deep into the draft. On the other hand, the Detroit brain trust thinks it is 1985, and Walter Payton is going to be running it down their throat twice a year moving forward.

Grade: C

Green Bay Packers

Round One

12th pick (12th overall) – Edge Rashan Gary, Michigan

Reach, reach, reach. I’m not in on Gary. I don’t care how athletic he is, it is a red flag he had no production while at Michigan. And no, Jim Harbaugh did not use him as a decoy for three years. He seems like a boom-or-bust player, although I think the truth is somewhere in between. In 2017 he did accumulate a fair amount of pressures, although he didn’t convert them into sacks. That hurries tally absolutely plummeted in 2018, however.

Gary was a good second round prospect. He has all the athleticism, and has shown flashes. Despite dishing out approximately a billion dollars in free agency to two edge rushers, I have no qualms with Green Bay using the 12th pick to add a third guy. There are some whispers they’re going to deploy Gary standing up as well. That’s all fine, but do that with Brian Burns at 12, or trade down to target Gary later.

21st pick (21st overall) – S Darnell Savage Jr., Maryland

Green Bay sent Seattle picks 30, 114, and 118 to get up to 21. That move cost the Packers 6.3 points worth of draft capital, which is the equivalent of the 85th pick of the draft.

Look, Savage is a fine player. I really like him. He has outstanding range and athleticism, good coverage skills, and can lay big hits. In fact, he would have been an interesting replacement for Earl Thomas had Seattle just stayed here and selected him themselves. This is maybe a couple picks too high for Savage, but I’m not really worried about.

I just cannot stand this trade up. The Packers threw away two useful fourth rounders when they should be taking as many bites at the apple as possible while Aaron Rodgers is still in his prime. Furthermore, while this is in hindsight, even if Savage didn’t make it to 30, Nasir Adderley did make it to 30. Adderley and Savage were essentially tied, grade wise, as prospects, so it’s basically a 50-50 proposition which ends up the better player. Green Bay struck a costly trade to move up for Savage. The Chargers had Adderley fall into their laps at the end of round two.

This also has shades of what I touched upon with Chris Ballard and superstitious learning. Last year the Packers successfully traded up and nailed the Jair Alexander selection. Such an outcome can result in thinking that is a reliable course of action, when all the evidence we have in the year 2019 says trading up only a good idea in very rare instances.

Round Two

12th pick (44th overall) – C Elgton Jenkins, Mississippi State

Third time’s the charm I suppose. It took two tries at first, but the Packers finally made a good pick. Jenkins figures to be a solid plug and play starter, and has positional versatility with the ability to be a center or a guard. Investing in protecting Rodgers is always a wise decision. On that end, Jenkins was one of the best pass blocking centers in college football last season. Jenkins is good enough to have snuck into the very late first round, so getting him mid-second is good value.

Round Three

11th pick (75th overall) – TE Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M

I really don’t like this tight end class, but Sternberger is one of the few exceptions. He is a good value here and should be able to take over for Graham once he is released in 2020. Sternberger isn’t a dynamic athlete, but he has enough ability for the next level. He was highly productive in 2018, racking up 836 yards and 10 touchdowns. That also includes 405 yards after the catch, and only three drops on 81 targets. To put a bow on it, Sternberger was one of the most productive deep threats at the tight end position in college football last season.

Round Five

12th pick (150th overall) – DT Kingsley Keke, Texas A&M

Keke is an interesting selection here. He is a good value at this point in the fifth. He is pretty athletic, and was a good run defender at Texas A&M. While he doesn’t provide a lot in the way of an interior pass rush, he does generate a decent amount of hurries for the position.

Round Six

12th pick (185th overall) – CB Ka’dar Hollman, Toledo

21st pick (194th overall) – RB Dexter Williams, Notre Dame

Round Seven

12th pick (226th overall) – LB Ty Summers, TCU


The fact the Packers left the draft having made 8 selections and none of them were a wide receiver is indefensible. At 12 or 21 they could have had their pick of the litter, and at 44 only three had been taken. I’m not advocating they should have reached in the first round, but they at least could have sat tight at 30 and taken whoever they liked best that wasn’t named Marquise Brown.

Speaking of staying put at 30, they shouldn’t have moved up for Savage. That pair of fourth round picks could have been valuable to a team that should be building the past possible roster to maximize what is left of the Rodgers window (although Tom Brady and to somewhat of a lesser extent Drew Brees are making us re-think how much longer the Rodgers window could potentially be). Had they stayed at 30, they could have taken Adderley, who is an equal prospect to Savage. It also makes no sense they bypassed A.J. Brown at 44, since he would have been a good compliment to Davante Adams.

Jenkins was a good pick, and getting Sternberger in the third was pretty good as well. But the Packers came in with the ammo to walk away with a really special class, and it looks like they squandered that opportunity.

Grade: C-

Minnesota Vikings

Round One

18th pick (18th overall) – C Garrett Bradbury, N.C. State

This is a reach, and it was done to fill a need, which is a process I cannot stand. Bradbury was a top ~35 player in this draft, so the mid-first is too rich for him. All that said, he does figure to be a plug and play starter. Additionally, the Vikings so desperately need improved offensive line play that it at least makes sense for them to aggressively attack the front five. This is an investment in their $84 million investment.

However, Andre Dillard was just sitting there. Why would you elect to take an inferior prospect at a less important position if you need any and all offensive lineman upgrades. It just makes no sense. This was one of the more head scratching decisions made during the first round.

Round Two

18th pick (50th overall) – TE Irv Smith Jr., Alabama

Part of why I’m not high on this tight end class is because Smith Jr., who was built up as a great prospect, isn’t so great in my eyes. He should have gone in the third. That being said, he possesses a good level of athleticism and was productive in 2018 at Alabama. He lead this draft class in yards per route run among the tight end position, and showed to be a vertical threat as well as a slot weapon.

Round Three

38th pick (102nd overall) – RB Alexander Mattison, Boise State

This is just bonkers. Mattison should have come off the board in the fifth round at best. You could spin this and say it’s only a round too high, but why do this? Not only were there superior running back prospects still on the board, but why take a running back here? I can understand wanting to keep Dalvin Cook’s mileage low, but you can get any running back later to be a spell back.

Round Four

12th pick (114th overall) – G Dru Samia, Oklahoma

See, here you go, this is an appropriate place to target an interior offensive lineman. Samia fits the range and fills a need. This is a solid pick.

Round Five

24th pick (162nd overall) – LB Cameron Smith, USC

Round Six

17th pick (190th overall) – DT Armon Watts, Arkansas

This is a really nice value pick. I would have been OK with Watts in the fourth, so getting him mid sixth is fantastic. Watts was very disruptive on the interior in 2018, racking up 8 sacks as a defensive tackle.

18th pick (191st overall) – S Marcus Epps, Wyoming

20th pick (193rd overall) – OT Olisaemeka Udoh, Elon

Round Seven

3rd pick (217th overall) – CB Kris Boyd, Texas

25th pick (239th overall) – WR Dillon Mitchell, Oregon

Good value.

33rd pick (247th overall) – WR Olabisi Johnson, Colorado State

36th pick (250th overall) – LS Austin Cutting, Air Force


As you can see, the Vikings made seven selections in rounds six and seven. I always emphasize trading down and accumulating assets, but picks this late aren’t really assets. They’re long shots to make the final roster. I don’t understand why Minnesota didn’t package some of these selections to move up into a more fruitful territory, or attached a six and a seventh to a higher round pick to move up a couple spots to get someone they loved. I know this sounds like it cuts against everything I ever preach, but these selections individually just don’t have much value. There is no point in holding onto all of them. The Vikings are just not going to keep seven sixth and seventh round rookies on their roster. It isn’t going to happen.

Other than that, this isn’t great anyway. Bradbury is solid but he was a reach. Smith was a reach, and Mattison was a huge reach at an unnecessary position. The Vikings did get two nice values out of those sixth and seventh round picks, but there doesn’t seem to be a very well thought out strategy to this draft.

Grade: D+

filed under: NFL

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *