Four teams have already traded out of the first round in the 2019 NFL Draft, the same number that did so in 2018. All four of the teams without a first round pick in 2018 (Texans, Chiefs, Eagles, Rams) made the playoffs and combined for a record of 45-19. Absent of a player selected among the first 32 picks did not inhibit the success of last year’s group of teams that traded out. What will the fate of this year’s teams be? The Browns, Cowboys, Bears and Saints aren’t currently slated to pick on Day 1 of the draft. Let’s examine what they do have instead and how the draft discussion has shifted.
*Each prospect name mentioned is clickable to see their scouting reports*
What the Browns Do Have: WR Odell Beckham Jr., DE Olivier Vernon
What the Browns Don’t Have: Pick No. 17, Pick No. 95, G Kevin Zeitler, S Jabrill Peppers
How the Draft Picture is Different: He would never admit it but at some point in a private moment, Browns’ general manager John Dorsey let out a loud scream and pinched himself for landing one of the league’s elite offensive playmakers to pair with rising star quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Browns are dangerous, and not having Pick No. 17 is a minor, minor trade off for securing OBJ. Zeitler was fairly easy to let go of given Austin Corbett was waiting in the wings. Peppers is a loss, but a deep safety class and Derrick Kindred are ready to step in. Let’s also not forget Cleveland brought back pass rusher Olivier Vernon to further improve its ability to get after opposing quarterbacks.
Prior to the trade, defensive tackle, linebacker, cornerback and wide receiver were the primary needs for Cleveland. Receiver can be crossed off the list as well as defensive tackle since the Browns were able to land Sheldon Richardson in free agency. Slated to make its first selection at No. 49 overall, cornerback is likely to be the most logical position to target where an upgrade is needed across from Denzel Ward.
If there is anything we’ve learned for the NFL in recent years it’s that cornerbacks go early and often in the draft so it’s difficult to truly forecast which prospects could be available at 49. With that said, Justin Layne or Rock Ya-Sin are possibilities while Amani Oruwariye would be a dream in that spot. DeAndre Baker, Julian Love and Trayvon Mullen also deserve mention.
If Cleveland were to consider a safety Deionte Thompson, Darnell Savage, Amani Hooker, Juan Thornhill and Taylor Rapp would be in the mix. I highly doubt any linebacker would be worth a top 50 selection. With that said, the Browns are still in good position to add a talented piece to its secondary even after the trade.
What the Bears Do Have: EDGE Khalil Mack, Raiders’ 2020 2nd Round Pick, Conditional 5th Round Pick
What the Bears Don’t Have: Pick No. 24, Pick No. 196, 2020 1st Round Pick, 2020 3rd Round Pick
How the Draft Picture is Different: Not slated to pick until No. 87 overall, it’s going to be a long wait in April for the Bears to be on clock. Rest easy, Bears fans. Pull out that No. 52 Khalil Mack jersey and be reminded that Jon Gruden allowed a game-changing pass rusher to be yours and keep that smile on your face. Also, say a quick prayer that Anthony Miller can stay healthy.
It’s difficult to project landing an impact player (at least right away) towards the end of Day Two and Chicago should keep its options open. Cornerback, safety and edge rusher would be priorities to add talent, while I can also see offensive line being a possibility. The reality is that Chicago already added its premium talent in Mack and Miller. But can Ryan Pace find his next Adrian Amos or Eddie Jackson-like steals?
What the Cowboys Do Have: WR Amari Cooper
What the Cowboys Don’t Have: Pick No. 27
How the Draft Picture is Different: The Cooper trade was met with plenty of criticism but Jerry Jones got the last laugh. An NFC East Division Title and 725 Cooper receiving yards with six touchdowns in nine games later, the joke was on the doubters. Cooper now has three 1,000-yard receiving seasons among the first four of his career and is set to land a lucrative contract in the coming months. Dallas has its No. 1 receiver, which would have likely been the discussion for Dallas at No. 27 and probably much higher without Cooper being added.
With its first pick scheduled for No. 58 overall, Dallas has needs at safety, defensive tackle and tight end to consider. I don’t think the Cowboys can marry itself to one position, but taking the best player on the board at one of those slots makes sense.
Among safety prospects to consider, Deionte Thompson, Darnell Savage, Amani Hooker, Juan Thornhill and Taylor Rapp are options. At tight end, the value may not be present as I anticipate Noah Fant, TJ Hockenson and Irv Smith being long gone. Jace Sternberger and Kahale Warring are in the next tier of tight ends, but that isn’t likely to be the best value for them. At defensive tackle, Dexter Lawrence, Renell Wren and Khalen Saunders have the most appeal in that area of the draft. Overall, Dallas will have plenty of options at positions of need.
New Orleans Saints
What the Saints Do Have: DE Marcus Davenport
What the Saints Don’t Have: Pick No. 30
How the Draft Picture is Different: Davenport’s impact as a rookie was minimal, and a major step forward in 2019 is needed. With that said, Drew Brees is still playing elite football so making another deep playoff run is expected in New Orleans but it sure would be nice for a pass rusher who cost the Saints two first round picks to be a big reason why the Saints are successful. After coughing up multiple first round picks in an open but diminishing window with Brees, expectations should be high for Davenport in 2019.
The Saints top selection in the 2019 NFL Draft is scheduled to be at No. 62 overall and there are a number of ways New Orleans can use it. A tight end with upside in the passing game would be a welcome addition, as would another receiver for Brees. I like Jace Sternberger as a seam-busting target for Brees in that spot and the receiver possibilities should be plentiful but the most dynamic weapons aren’t likely going to be around at the end of round two.
Starting center Max Unger’s recent retirement prompted the Saints to sign Nick Easton who is a very inspiring replacement at a critical position for the offense. Elgton Jenkins is likely to be the best center prospect available, and he has early starting upside.
There is still a need at defensive end for New Orleans who as it stands, is relying on major growth from Davenport and Trey Hendrickson across from Cameron Jordan. Top pass rushers go quick, so relying on a high impact guy being there is unlikely. With that said, Jaylon Ferguson and Christian Miller could be targets. Chase Winovich being there would be a dream or perhaps taking a chance on Jachai Polite would make sense should he fall.