Draft Class Heroes is live! Every Tuesday morning we talk 2019 NFL Draft prospects, including addressing major narratives, offering a few sleepers and listing my quick scouting observations over the past week.
This week I present the players I’ve awarded first round grades to so far in the evaluation process, as well as the prospects most likely to join them in the coming weeks.
Draft Class Heroes Of The Week: Round 1 Grades
In lieu of my colleague Kyle Crabbs releasing the prospects he currently has first round grades on, I’ve decided to also release my list of Round 1 graded prospects so far, with the asterisk that the following “potential” first rounders still need to be studied:
Of the above players, I think Bradbury, Williams, Murphy and Ferrell have the best chance to be added to my list of first round players in the 2019 class. Kelvin Harmon and Riley Ridley can land in the first round group too, if they test a bit better than expected. So far, here are the 14 prospects that have made the cut:
Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
Dominant tape with eye-popping traits. Yes, I wish he was on the field a little more in college, but when he was, he was highly productive and consistently disruptive. Easy evaluation.
Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State
I wish he was little more consistently explosive out of his stance, but Burns’ stride length and flexibility allow him to capture the edge with good regularity. He also has some of the best counters in the class, and will weigh-in better than people think.
Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida
The most explosive and natural edge bender in the class, Polite is so fast up the arc that he almost always gives himself a favorable angle to corner to the quarterback. There are concerns about his size and run defense, but his pass rush traits are undeniable.
Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky
Allen still has a ways to grow as a pure pass rusher, but his traits and play temperament are outstanding on tape. Considering how much he developed from his junior to senior year, Allen is probably worth the risk in the top ten.
Quinnen Williams, IDL, Alabama
Tape is dominant, traits are dominant, production in one year as a starter is dominant. Easy top two player in the class.
Jeffery Simmons, IDL, Mississippi State
Probably the most quiet of the few players in this class that I truly believe excelled on the football field last year. Simmons improved his technique and vision while showing all the athletic gifts and pass rush ability to be a high draft pick.
T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
I don’t know anything that Hockenson doesn’t do well at the tight end position, and I think he’s going to test better than people think too. He’s a terrific receiver who absolutely mauls people as a blocker. Easy top 10 player in the class.
Noah Fant, Iowa
In an offensive class without a lot of first round offensive talent, Fant joins Hockenson as a breath of fresh air. He’s a much better blocker than given credit for, and has the best athletic skill set in a loaded class of tight ends.
Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma
Ford is a mauler with elite physical tools and rare movement skills for a big man. Technically he improved a lot this past season for Oklahoma, but still has room to grow if he is going to stay at tackle in the NFL.
Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida
Taylor might just be the best offensive tackle in the 2019 class, as he and Jonah Williams should finish very close on my final board. His ability to vary pass sets and match every type of edge rusher should make him a top 10 pick.
D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss
Every year I choose a few players that are far from a finished product that I want to bet on to make a big leap at the next level. This year, Metcalf is that guy, as his age, traits, football character and flashes on tape make him my no. 1 receiver despite the clear areas in his game where he still needs to improve.
Fringe Round 1
These guys need to test well to stay in Round 1, otherwise they will be early day two grades on my board.
Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware
Adderley looks like an outstanding athlete on tape, and I expect he’ll wow at the Combine to stay high on my board. His ball skills and range make him an ideal single-high free safety in the NFL.
Charles Omenihu, EDGE, Texas
One of the most slept on prospects in the class, Omenihu took a huge leap forward as a pass rusher this past season at Texas. He was outstanding in the Senior Bowl, and if he tests well, he’ll lock into a Round 1 grade on my board.
Joshua Jacobs, RB, Alabama
I loved Jacobs tape, but the reality is that his whole career is a small sample size compared to most running backs I would give a Round 1 grade too. I want to trust what I see, but I’m going to need the testing to convince me this is a risk worth taking in Round 1.
8 Quick Scouting Observations
-You might have noticed I’m not as high on Ed Oliver as the consensus, as he finished with a high second round grade on my board. He will likely still be at least a top 25 prospect on my board, and I believe he should be drafted in the top 32 picks. The grade suggests where I value him in a vacuum, as it does for every prospect, not where I value him in relation to the current class.
-Now that the top ten hype for Christian Wilkins has died down, I hope we haven’t lost sight of the fact that he is still a really good player who can help an NFL team right away on all three downs.
-Explain to me the Dexter Lawrence appeal. I get he’s athletic for his size, but he doesn’t offer much as a pass rusher and he isn’t even the dominant run stuffer that Derrick Nnadi was a year ago. Third round prospect for me.
-No Darwin Thompson at the Combine, per Dane Brugler? Come on, man. Kid was dynamic all season long, would have tested well and is easily one of the top 32 running backs in this class. That’s how many running backs were invited to Indy last year. A terrible snub.
-I definitely get the intrigue with Preston Williams, but he needs to have an epic Pro Day to keep his stock high. I know his character has him off the boards of a lot of NFL teams, but the narrative there always starts to shift closer to the draft if his meetings with teams go well.
–Erik McCoy…this cat is good. In an interior offensive line class without much depth, he should go high.
–Dawson Knox is the ultimate test of traits or production. Thrown to 22 times last season, once in the red zone, caught 15 passes, has never scored a collegiate touchdown, but will reportedly test very well, perhaps even running in the high 4.5s. Natural ball skills when he was thrown to as well. I still like him.
-Marshall safety Malik Gant…he’s next on my watch list. A PFF favorite with some fun flashes on tape, I continue to hear buzz about him.