If you've followed my work in previous NFL Draft cycles, you'll notice some things are different this time around. For one, my grading approach has changed for the 2019 NFL Draft. For five years, I attempted to supplement film scores with metics in an effort to strike a balance and protect against conscious or subconscious bias in my grading.
But as with any system, there are faults. And while I have found some thresholds for NFL success, I don't have the concrete statistics to back continuing to grade players in the same process.
Entering my sixth NFL Draft, I feel as though my grasp of the film (and the context of players) has expanded exponentially. The end result? A player's film is going to dictate his value. Instead of weighing a player's film score with metrics, I'll be placing players into tiers and then letting the metrics help break any ties present...nothing more and nothing less.
With this change in grading, I can say with confidence who I anticipate carrying a first round grade on. I cannot, however, tell you the order they'll fall until I have all the information. But with approximately 150 player reports penned for The Draft Network, I've done the heart of this year's class.
So who gets the illustrious title of a "first round grade"? Thus far, I have nineteen of them. One thing I'd like to stress? I haven't watched everyone! So before we get into who has a first round grade, I'd like to recognize some potential candidates that I have not noted as of this date.
Not yet graded: Duke QB Daniel Jones, Alabama RB Joshua Jacobs, Georgia WR Riley Ridley, Alabama TE Irv Smith Jr, Wisconsin OT David Edwards, Florida EDGE Jachai Polite, Alabama LB Mack Wilson, Penn State CB Amani Oruwariye, Alabama FS Deionte Thompson, Florida S Chauncey Gardner-Johnson
With that out of the way, who currently does carry a first round grade from yours truly? If you'd like to read my full thoughts, click on each player to read their full 2019 NFL Draft player profile.
Wide Receiver D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss
Durability questions and lack of top tier production will dog him, but holy smokes: Metcalf is a physical freak who has all the tools to be the next alpha-receiver in the NFL.
Wide Receiver N'Keal Harry, Arizona State
The concern for Harry is centered around his separation skills: can he consistently create space? Harry has terrific contested catch skills to help compensate, plus he's pretty slippery after the catch...creating a lot of yards for himself.
Tight End Noah Fant, Iowa
Fant has dynamic receiving skills and while his blocking is taken for granted thanks to his former teammate (see below), he's no slouch in that department either.
Tight End T.J. Hockenson, Iowa
When is the last time you saw two dudes this talented leave the same offense? Hockenson is a mauler up front but he's also a bully at the catch point.
Offensive Tackle Jonah Williams, Alabama
Arm length narratives be damned, I think Williams will be a top-shelf pro no matter where he's asked to play. A true "plug and play" option.
Offensive Tackle Cody Ford, Oklahoma
Ford has mammoth size and length, which he applies to negate speedier, more agile pass rushers. Ford is a desirable starting Right Tackle right off the jump to me.
Offensive Tackle Jawaan Taylor, Florida
Taylor is another Right Tackle but he's more athletic and brings a higher ceiling than Cody Ford. Taylor has the physical tools to be an All-Pro but needs to clean up those hands!
Offensive Tackle Dalton Risner, Kansas State
Risner had great tape but his Senior Bowl showing was the icing on the cake. He can play Tackle! Will he be asked to? Hard to say...but he won't be handcuffed if he's asked to play outside.
Offensive Guard Chris Lindstrom, Boston College
Lindstrom is exactly what you'd want from a starting interior OL: he's boring. Boring is good, especially when it means keeping your QB clean.
EDGE Nick Bosa, Ohio State
Hands down, no questions asked: Nick Bosa is the best football player in the 2019 NFL Draft.
EDGE Josh Allen, Kentucky
Allen made big strides in 2018, he may serve as a poster child for coming back to school to boost your stock. In the 2019 NFL Draft, Allen may be the most diverse defender.
EDGE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
It's become popular to be down on Clelin Ferrell, but don't take the cheese. The dude has length, an effective anchor and enough pass rush counters to make a splash early on.
EDGE Brian Burns, Florida State
Burns has the highest ceiling of any pass rusher in this year's class. Quick twitch explosiveness, length, bend and hand counters are top-shelf for Burns.
IDL Ed Oliver, Houston
Ed is a bowling ball in the middle, his quickness and agility allow him to pinball off of blocks and create havoc in the backfield.
IDL Quinnen Williams, Alabama
Hands down, no questions asked: Quinnen Williams is the second best football player in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Linebacker Devin White, LSU
White improved his mental processing in 2018, which brings him into another echelon as a prospect when considering his explosiveness and physical skills.
Cornerback Byron Murphy, Washington
I haven't swooned as hard over any 2019 NFL Draft prospect as I have over Byron Murphy. He's very much "on brand" for me: quick feet, fearless and terrific ball-skills.
Cornerback Deandre Baker, Georgia
Baker isn't a one size fits all defender: I like him best when he's able to play aggressive in the contact window and play turn and run man coverage as a press defender.
Safety Nasir Adderley, Delaware
Adderley struggled in man to man drills at the Senior Bowl, but don't overthink it: he's a free safety. And he's got great ball skills and enough mobility in the deep middle to play as a true single high defender.