Draft Class Heroes is back with a look at a few pivotal players in Round 1 action - all three teams with multiple first round selections. Will Oakland or New York opt for a quarterback? Does Green Bay get the run on tight ends rolling, or will they look to the future at offensive or defensive tackle?
Draft Class Heroes: Multiple First Round Pick Teams
So, are the Raiders, Giants and Packers really heroes now? Has it come to this?
When it comes to determining how much of the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft will unfold, yes. That is to say, these three teams will be either the hero or the villain for many of the teams drafting behind them, as their draft strategy will massively impact the construct of the first round.
Obviously the Raiders and Giants hold more weight than Green Bay in how things play out, but I thought it would be fun to take a look at all three teams, see how their strategy has changed following the first wave of free agency and which teams stand to benefit or lose out that draft behind them.
Oakland Raiders: no. 4, no. 24, no. 27
The Skinny: Let’s start with the only team in the 2019 draft to have three first round picks in the Raiders. Oakland is building their team from the ground level, but knocked out a few crying needs in free agency.
Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams’ additions have likely taken them out of contention for D.K. Metcalf, while Trenton Brown’s signing solidifies the team at offensive tackle for the foreseeable future. Lamarcus Joyner is coming off a down year, but he’ll at least temporarily fill the void at safety next to Karl Joseph in the Raiders secondary.
Those moves further highlight the screaming need at edge pass rusher, while cornerback, running back and linebacker remain priorities as well. You can’t forget about the quarterback position with Oakland either, while tight end remains a big sleeper need for the Raiders.
The Strategy: To me, there is only one position worth considering for Oakland at no. 4: edge pass rusher. The need is dire in Oakland, and if you need a game-changer at the position it has to happen at no. 4. As tempting as Devin White might be, they cannot let the opportunity to add an impact player off the edge pass them by.
Now, if Nick Bosa and Josh Allen come off the board in the first three picks, we’ll find out just how much Oakland likes Montez Sweat or Brian Burns. A trade back could be in the cards, but doesn’t feel super likely. To me, if Bosa and Allen are gone, Oakland will take White or their favorite of the two edge rushers and be happy.
Two wild cards exist: Kyler Murray and Quinnen Williams. I really believe Oakland is going to ride with Derek Carr for at least one more season, although they will do their due diligence on Murray. As for Williams, the Raiders have about nine positions they desperately need to address more than their interior defensive line, but there is a strong chance he’s the best player on their board at no. 4. It will be fascinating to see if Oakland opts for need or BPA given how devoid they are of talent across the board, especially with such a vital pick in their rebuild.
Let’s say they do land the pass rusher early. At no. 24, the top two linebackers are likely off the board, and it’s a big drop-off to the next one. Quarterback has to be addressed early if it’s going to be addressed at all, so that leaves us looking at cornerback, running back or tight end, with a guard to replace Kelechi Osemele as the wild card selection.
Paul Guenther hails from Cincinnati, where they had 3-4 first round cornerbacks playing for him at any one time. His mentor Mike Zimmer, from whom Guenther has drawn many of his beliefs and practices, also highly values the position with three first round corners on the Vikings current roster. To play in that defensive system, cornerbacks who can play in man coverage are a necessity.
If Greedy Williams is on the board at no. 24, I don’t think the Raiders will hesitate. If he isn’t, they could be one of the few teams in the first round willing to gamble on Deandre Baker’s football character concerns.
Then, it’s a matter of getting Joshua Jacobs past Philadelphia and into a Raiders uniform at pick no. 27. I think the Raiders would consider that a dominant first round haul, and it would be hard to disagree with them. At no. 35, grab Irv Smith or another offensive weapon and prosper.
New York Giants: no. 6, no. 17
The Skinny: The Giants really didn’t fill any holes in free agency outside of right guard, instead creating ones at wide receiver and edge pass rusher. Adding Jabrill Peppers and Antoine Bethea likely takes them out of the safety market at no. 17, while Golden Tate’s presence could be good enough to avoid wide receiver early in a deep draft class at the position.
I don’t think Markus Golden on a one-year deal opposite Lorenzo Carter is enough to keep the Giants from going edge defender early in the draft, but it does give them a little bit of flexibility. I do think New York is happy with where they are at on the interior offensive line after the addition of Kevin Zeitler and re-signing Jon Halapio and Spencer Pulley, so rule that out at no.17, for now.
Heading into the draft, the main needs for GM Dave Gettleman to address look like edge defender, right tackle, cornerback and linebacker. The wild card remains quarterback, although every fierce Gettleman defense of Eli Manning seems to bring us further and further from that possibility.
The Strategy: In my mind, no. 6 comes down to an edge pass rusher or a right tackle. Both are crucial positions for any team to fill, and the Giants have crying needs at both spots.
The wild cards for the Giants, outside of quarterback? Linebacker and defensive tackle. Remember, Gettleman was the GM of the Panthers during Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis’ prime years, and still drafting Shaq Thompson in the first round. He values the position, regardless of whether he is paying Alec Ogletree way too much money or not. If he loves Devin White, he’ll take him at no. 6.
Interior defensive line is really far down the list of Giants needs, especially considering the rise of B.J. Hill last year and how solid Dalvin Tomlinson has been. But neither are dynamic pass rushers, and Gettleman has always highly valued the interior defensive line. In Carolina he draft Star Lotulelei in the first round and Kawann Short in the second round of the same draft! Then, with both playing at a high level, he took Vernon Butler in the first round three years later.
The most important thing to remember about Gettleman is that he does not care about need. He cares about getting his type of football player at positions he values. Traditionally, that has not been edge pass rusher or offensive tackle, as he’s never drafted an offensive tackle in the first three rounds despite consistent need there amongst the teams he’s managed. Edge defender isn’t much better, as a late second round pick on Kony Ealy and an early third on Lorenzo Carter is as far as he’s been willing to go.
The 2019 draft will be a fascinating dynamic for the Giants. Take quality players at high-impact positions of need, or take quality players at positions Gettleman likes, but aren’t as impactful. Personally, Jawaan Taylor or Brian Burns would be my top options at no. 6, but I’ll be surprised if Gettleman doesn’t find a way to do something off the wall.
At no. 17, Devin Bush is in play if they don’t go linebacker early and he’s still on the board. I could see a trade down scenario too, or potentially nabbing the draft’s first cornerback, but I still don’t think quarterback happens in Round 1 for New York.
Green Bay Packers: no. 12, no. 30
The Skinny: Signing Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith to big money really opened up a lot of possibilities for Green Bay in the draft. I don’t think edge is completely off the table, but both Smiths will be making a lot of money (although they can rush inside situationally) and Kyler Fackrell is coming off a career year. The priority will now be elsewhere.
Adrian Amos fills one of the safety spots, with the other still open for business. Billy Turner gives them a competent body at right guard, but I wouldn’t consider the case closed there.
Safety and tight end remain the most obvious needs for Green Bay, but then there are plenty of questions surrounding the current roster that need answered. Can Bryan Bulaga be trusted to stay healthy at right tackle? How much does Green Bay want to rely on E.Q. St. Brown and Marquez Valdes-Scantling at wide receiver? Is Oren Burks the answer next to Blake Martinez at linebacker? Mike Daniels is in a contract year, sure wouldn’t hurt to make Ed Oliver his replacement.
The Strategy: The Packers have seven or eight different positions they could easily address with their first pick, and no crying need to keep them from making a move for the best player available. This is purely about who might be the top guy on the board when Green Bay is on the clock.
Any safety Green Bay takes here will likely be a reach in their mind, and I expect an early run on edge defenders to take that position off their radar. Offensive tackle might be in a similar boat, although I do think Jonah Williams (pro comp: Bulaga) will be sitting there at no. 12 if Green Bay is interested. Andre Dillard could be a fit as well, and the Packers current situation would allow him time to develop for a year.
In the end, I do think tight end or offensive tackle is the pick, with Oliver acting as the wild card. Green Bay has always relied on the tight end position for Aaron Rodgers, and Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson are a really good duo to pass up if both are on the board.
At no. 30, my attention would shift heavily to safety. Amos can play free or strong, but he isn’t an ideal single-high option if the Packers are looking for that kind of defensive flexibility. Nasir Adderley or Deionte Thompson make sense here, but don’t rule out my guy Chauncey Gardner-Johnson either. Wide receiver (Deebo Samuel) or interior offensive line (Chris Lindstrom) could be targets here as well.
8 Scouting Observations
-Deionte Thompson didn’t blow it over the second half of the season like many rumored he did. A bad play or two sure, but he was far from an issue in the National Championship Game. Still, there are concerns about his game that will be answered somewhat in today’s Pro Day at Alabama.
-I don’t think Daniel Jones is ever going to be a preferable starter in the NFL, and I think more teams are going to see him the way I do during draft week. He’ll go day two still, but I don’t see him landing in Round 1 at all, and he might slide in the Round 3 portion of the draft.
-Darnell Savage is a splash play safety in a class without many splash play safeties. He’ll also blow it at times and give up the big play opportunity. Find where you’re comfortable with the variance, but he could develop into a quality nickel defender in the NFL given his traits and instincts.
-You can probably move Kendall Joseph and Tre Lamar off your draft board if they’re still on there. Both ran in the 4.9s to low 5.0s range at Clemson’s pro day, and the tape isn’t good enough on either to take a risk on those athletic profiles.
-Marshall wide receiver Tyre Brady has had his fans, but he ran 4.74 and jumped 29.5 inches at the Thundering Herd pro day. Say goodnight.
-Joejuan Williams improved his 40 time to 4.55 at his pro day, up from the 4.64 at the Combine. He also notched a 6.84 3-cone at 211 pounds and jumped 36 inches in the vertical and 10-6 in the broad. Not an elite athlete, but still really good numbers across the board for such a big cornerback. I still think he’ll go in the top 100, but the Round 1 hype is dead forever.
-I think Drew Lock is going to be the second quarterback off the board.
-I think Jeffery Simmons is going to go Round 1 still.