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10 NFL Debuts To Expect This Fall (And Where They Will Happen)

The future of the NFL is already bright well before the start of the 2019 NFL Draft. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is a Most Valuable Player candidate years ahead of what should be his physical prime. New York Giants rookie Saquon Barkley looked like the best running back in the league for much of his first year despite the fact that he had a lousy offensive line opening holes for him. The Dallas Cowboys, Los Angeles Rams, and Seattle Seahawks are three teams that all feature promising young talents on the defensive side of the ball. Don’t forget about Baker Mayfield, the signal-caller who has fans of the Cleveland Browns believing that franchise is on the verge of becoming a legitimate playoff team.

Dozens of NFL debuts will take place during the fall, and many will cause excitement among supporters of clubs that didn’t qualify for the playoffs this time around but that could compete for postseason spots thanks largely to these hoped-to-be stars. A handful of teams are expected to, at the very least, consider selecting quarterbacks during the 2019 NFL Draft. Perhaps the first that comes to mind plays in the largest sports media market in the country and currently features a veteran and two-time Super Bowl MVP who unquestionably isn’t the best player at his position in the division. That team lands the top QB prospect in the draft in this simulation.

20 Debut: Nick Bosa

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Much can and will change in mock drafts and player rankings ahead of the actual player selection process. With that said, Ohio State pass rusher Nick Bosa seems to be the favorite to go first overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. Don’t, for a second, think that anything regarding Bosa’s core muscle or the fact that he decided to sit the majority of the 2018 college season out to prepare for the draft will cause teams to reevaluate his status. His track record is known. He may be the best overall player who will debut in 2019. The team that currently possesses the first overall pick needs somebody who can get to quarterbacks, and Joey Bosa's younger brother fits the bill.

19 Team: Arizona Cardinals

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Those who would claim that the Arizona Cardinals need to give young quarterback Josh Rosen more weapons are correct, but all were reminded during the Wild Card round of the 2019 NFL postseason that defense is still important. Chandler Jones is great, no question about it, but there is only so much that he can do without some assistance up front. Bosa’s skill set should transition to the NFL in any defense, and he was the top pick in mock drafts ahead of the fall. That shouldn’t change when the real draft comes along unless the Cardinals decide to trade down and accumulate additional needed assets.

18 Debut: Quinnen Williams

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Just how good is Alabama’s Quinnen Williams? There are some mock drafts forecasting he and not Nick Bosa could go first overall to the Arizona Cardinals even though he doesn’t necessarily fill a hole on that roster. Williams’ meteoric rise in evaluations throughout the fall of 2018 occurred after he bulked up to play the role of defensive tackle, and his speed, agility, and overall athleticism made him a nightmare for offensive linemen and opposing coaches who couldn’t stop him with double teams. Williams enjoyed a breakout campaign en route to becoming, at worst, the second-best defensive lineman on the NFL big board. Any team that grabs him should feel fortunate.

17 Team: San Francisco 49ers

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As we get closer to the NFL Draft, more and more stories about the San Francisco 49ers potentially trading the second overall pick to a team that wants a quarterback (looking at you, New York Giants) should emerge. As of January 2019, though, the San Francisco defense certainly would improve with Williams making his official debut for the club in September. San Francisco’s defensive front is weak, to put it mildly, but the franchise could bolster the line by spending cash in free agency. If the 49ers go that route and feel that Williams would be a luxury, the team could, and should, sell this selection.

16 Debut: Josh Allen

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Could the Kentucky edge rusher be the best Josh Allen in the NFL by December 2019? Fans of whichever team drafts this Allen will be hoping that’s the case during the fall. Allen has the type of talent to play just about anywhere up front, and he didn’t miss a step after adding some necessary weight that will allow him to compete at the highest level. His outstanding final college season should cement his status as a top pick unless multiple clubs trade up for quarterbacks, which should only happen if those signal-callers produce some historic numbers at the upcoming combine. Allen could be the first pick in some draft classes.

15 Team: New York Jets

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The New York Jets need all kinds of help on both sides of the ball, which is the biggest reason Gang Green supporters shouldn’t complain about the franchise addressing just about any position other than quarterback during the draft. Getting a hybrid player who can get to the QB like Allen should excite fans of the team that shares MetLife Stadium with the New York Giants, as he could be a cornerstone for what becomes a defense that helps the team win meaningful January games. Sam Darnold is the real deal and needs better weapons. Get those weapons in free agency, Jets, and take Allen if he is available.

14 Debut: Will Grier

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Unlike during the first few months of 2018, the belief at the start of 2019 is that the upcoming draft class is not filled with a plethora of QBs who can get the job done in the NFL. Because of this, QB rankings for future rookies vary among evaluators. West Virginia quarterback Will Grier looks the part with his size, and he was one of the best downfield passers in all of college football during the 2018 season, as explained by Zac Robinson of Pro Football Focus. Grier’s big arm and ability to complete a variety of NFL throws could cause his stock to rise following the combine and private team workouts.

13 Team: Cincinnati Bengals

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Life comes at you fast in the NFL, and that harsh reality could be staring Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton right in the face this fall. The Bengals are not married to the Red Rifle, per the terms of his contract, beyond the 2018 season, let alone into next decade, and a new head coach may want to select and groom his own QB unless that coach ends up being Hue Jackson. Grier wouldn’t necessarily have to start for the Bengals in Week 1 of the campaign. With the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers currently possessing playoff-caliber rosters and the Cleveland Browns on the doorstep, Grier could receive snaps with the Bengals in November or December.

12 Debut: A.J. Brown

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Ole Miss will give the NFL multiple wide receivers who will debut in the league during the fall. Listed at 6-foot-1 and 230 pounds, A.J. Brown has the size and athleticism to be a No. 1 NFL WR right out of the gates, and he’s phenomenal at making plays after catches. He finished the 2018 campaign with 85 catches, 1,320 receiving yards and six touchdowns during the 2018 season. He probably won’t be the first receiver taken off the board during the draft — an impressive showing at the combine could change that — but the team that grabs him in the first round could get an absolute bargain.

11 Team: Green Bay Packers

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Think whatever you will about the reputation belonging to Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers these days. As goes Rodgers, so go the Packers for the foreseeable future, so the front office needs to provide him with some better talent during the final years of his prime. Randall Cobb is set to leave the Packers via free agency, and the team shouldn’t spend any considerable amount of money to keep him around. Instead, Green Bay can plan for the future and also grab a talented play-maker who will be on a rookie contract for at least four seasons. It’s safe to assume Rodgers would love throwing to Brown.

10 Debut: N'Keal Harry

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While everybody should wait to see prospects at the combine before overreacting to player rankings and mock drafts, it appears Arizona State’s N'Keal Harry would be the first wide receiver selected if the draft occurred in the middle of January. Listed at 6-foot-4 and over 210 pounds, Harry has the type of size that makes for formidable matchups for defensive coordinators and secondaries. There are questions about his speed and explosiveness which could be answered at the combine and during workouts. A 40-yard dash time shouldn’t be the final grade for any prospect, but Harry’s could determine when he’s taken off the board.

9 Team: Washington Redskins

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Granted, the Washington Redskins don’t know who will be playing quarterback for the club during the fall, but the Redskins desperately need some receivers to grab passes thrown by whoever lines up under center. Assume, for the time being, that Alex Smith won’t be ready to go and also won’t retire before September, and that the Redskins have to plug a journeyman such as Ryan Fitzpatrick in at the top spot on the depth chart. Providing such a QB with a safety blanket like Harry would be wise. Harry would also give the team some long-term stability at receiver as the front office begins scouting for a younger QB.

8 Debut: D.K. Metcalf

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It’s yet another wide receiver out of Ole Miss. D.K. Metcalf’s season ended prematurely because of a neck injury and before he solidified his status as a sure-thing first-round pick. Metcalf sliding in the draft, were that to occur, could be a dream come true for a franchise in need of a young receiver. The 21-year-old listed at 6-foot-4 and over 220 pounds can be a terror for defenses in red zone situations, and he’s shown he can exploit coverage schemes when paired with another proven target man. Where he is taken in the draft may prove if he made the right choice in not returning to college for the 2019 season.

7 Team: Cleveland Browns

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The Cleveland Browns could be the perfect fit for somebody such as Metcalf who may not have the speed to be a No. 1 receiver but who could pair-up nicely with someone such as Jarvis Landry. Quarterback Baker Mayfield needs a big guy who isn’t a tight end to target when inside the opposing 20-yard line. Metcalf would be that man, and he’d also, ideally, open things up for new teammates like Landry and David Njoku. The Browns could be a problem for a handful of teams in 2019 with the roster the club has entering the year. Adding Metcalf would make Cleveland’s offense that much better.

6 Debut: Daniel Jones

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All things being equal, Duke’s Daniel Jones may be the most NFL-ready quarterback to enter the 2019 draft. Jones stands at 6-foot-5, and he’s listed at 220 pounds, meaning he has the size offensive coordinators and head coaches covet. With Justin Herbert announcing that he’s returning to college for the 2019 campaign, Jones’ stock rose, but that doesn’t mean he’d necessarily be a reach for a team in the first round. The Duke product would probably be a project, but his touches on deep passes, his size, and his speed could all make him a signal-caller worth the investment for a franchise that has a starter on the depth chart.

5 Team: Miami Dolphins

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How much faith do the Miami Dolphins really have in Ryan Tannehill taking the next step of his career and leading the franchise past a one-and-done playoff appearance? Eventually, the Dolphins will have to add a backup who isn’t a veteran such as Brock Osweiler, and 2019 seems as good a time as any for the club to go in that direction. Even if the Dolphins don’t trade Tannehill, which has been rumored at the start of the year, Jones could still make his debut for Miami this fall if the Dolphins are either out of the playoff hunt or if a new coach believes that Jones gives the team the best chance to win moving forward.

4 Debut: Drew Lock

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Maybe the hottest take of this piece is that Missouri’s Drew Lock could end up being the first quarterback taken in the 2019 NFL Draft. Lock played four years with the Tigers, meaning he has way more experience than the next and final QB spotlighted in this piece. He stands at 6-foot-4 and weighs over 220 pounds. He has an NFL arm, and he can spin the ball and make all of the throws. He may not be the loudest guy in the room, but plenty of signal-callers have succeeded in the NFL without having massive personalities. Eli Manning won a pair of Super Bowl MVP awards, don’t forget.

3 Team: Jacksonville Jaguars

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There is no way the Jacksonville Jaguars can trot Blake Bortles out as the team’s starting quarterback and expect anybody to spend any real money on watching the team in-person. Some may say that Lock shouldn’t debut right away and should be stashed away by a team willing to start a veteran, such as the New York Giants. The Jaguars can’t afford that luxury. After all, are the Jags actually going to start Cody Kessler over Lock, especially if the team uses a first-round pick on the Missouri signal-caller? We don’t know if Lock will be better than Bortles. He can’t be worse, though, so starting him is worth the risk.

2 Debut: Dwayne Haskins

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Flavors of the month are described as such because their statuses often change at the snap of a finger. Dwayne Haskins, who officially announced on January 7 he’s leaving Ohio State for the NFL, is the top quarterback of his draft class in the eyes of many scouts and observers. A pocket-passer with prototypical size and an ability to stretch the field with his arm, Haskins became the top QB on the board as a first-year starter largely because Justin Herbert returned to school. This isn’t a knock on Haskins, who may have emerged as the best QB of next year’s class had he remained the OSU starter another year, which probably wouldn’t have happened thanks to Justin Fields transferring to the home of the Buckeyes.

1 Team: New York Giants

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Haskins probably shouldn’t debut in Week 1 of the 2019 season unless he lights scoreboards up during the preseason. That’s only one reason the young man from New Jersey is ideal for the New York Giants. The Giants can restructure Eli Manning’s contract, as long as Manning would oblige, to free up salary cap space and bring the greatest QB in franchise history back for one more run. Just as what happened during Manning’s first season back in 2004, however, the club would eventually want to see the rookie in action. Haskins’ debut may not come until November or December. Giants fans will hope he’ll be worth the wait.

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