The 2019 NFL Draft will be something different.
This isn't a class that is top-heavy on quarterback prospects. The 2018 Draft was loaded with promising signal-callers, which included Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold and Lamar Jackson. Unless your name is Drew Lock or Justin Herbert, there's a high chance we don't see many quarterbacks go in the first round this year.
Heck, there might not even be a quarterback taken in the top 10 this year. Herbert and Lock are the top two prospects, sure, but they don't come with that can't-miss label. There is a risk in taking these quarterbacks early, but the reward is greater anyway.
The 2019 NFL Draft class is stacked with stud pass rushers and defensive linemen. There's a great chance that at least seven of the top 10 draft picks will be a combination of linebackers, edge rushers and interior linemen. And considering that many of the worst teams from 2018 are in desperate need of a pass rush, it's a safe assumption that the the first 10 to 15 picks will be loaded with front seven players.The tricky part in this article was to determine how the draft order will look. There are four games to go, and a half-dozen teams have a realistic shot at picking in the top two. But the draft is still four months away, and a lot can change. Let's simply have some fun and project the top 10 selections of the 2019 NFL Draft, and the teams that might select them.
20 Pick: Nick Bosa
The younger brother of Los Angeles Chargers star, Joey, is easily the top prospect of the 2019 Draft class. Nick Bosa has such a high ceiling to the point that he was confident in the decision to sit out the 2019 season.
The Ohio State product is one of the top pass rusher prospects to come around in years. The 6-foot-4, 270-pound Bosa registered 17 sacks in 30 games (over a three-year span). He's one of the top defensive prospects to come along in decades, and he'll make an immediate impact on whichever team wins the No. 1 draft selection.
There's quite a race for the top pick, given the bundle of terrible teams in 2018. But ultimately, the locker winners are...
19 Might Play For: San Francisco 49ers
At the end of the day, the 49ers' brutal schedule means they'll secure the worst record in the NFL this year. They stood at 2-10 through the first 12 games, and it shouldn't surprise anybody if they fail to pick up another win this year.
Losing Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon for the season led to a terrible 2018 for the 49ers, but Bosa will be well worth it. He'll join Garoppolo, DeForest Buckner and Solomon Thomas as a franchise building block.
With Bosa and Buckner leading the defensive line, San Francisco will quickly form one of the NFL's top defenses in 2019. And if Garoppolo stays healthy, a return to the playoffs is not out of the question for San Francisco.
18 Pick: Quinnen Williams
In other draft classes, Quinnen Williams would be a safe bet as the first overall pick. But the 2019 class is loaded with elite pass rushers and defensive linemen, so Williams will likely be the No. 2 pick at best.
The Alabama product displays phenomenal strength and athleticism, using his 6-foot-4, 295-pound frame to get burst through the offensive lines. Few players in recent NCAA memory have dominated the trenches like this Williams kid. There is absolutely no risk in taking a player of his caliber, and Williams is almost as sure of a thing as you can ask for.
So, who is the team that lands with franchise-changing player?
17 Might Play For: Oakland Raiders
Oakland Raiders head coach Jon Gruden received plenty of criticism for trading away 2016 Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. But Gruden gets his new star pass rusher to build around here.
It's possible that Gruden decides to trade down in order to secure more picks for later. He does own first-roundersr via the Bears and Dallas Cowboys, after all. But passing up on the chance to draft Williams would be too risky, so expect the Raiders to keep the No. 2 selection and take the Alabama product.
Williams gives Gruden that new pass rusher to build his team around. It's a major win for Oakland here.
16 Pick: Greedy Williams
Cornerbacks drafted in the first round these days are either boom or bust, but LSU product Greedy Williams has all the tools to be the next great showdown defensive back in the NFL.
He's not an Eli Apple or Justin Gilbert here. Williams displays larger-than-average size for corners at 6-foot-3, 175 pounds. He's got a Richard Sherman-like frame and will be a matchup nightmare for years to come.
Now, only so many of the bottom feeders this season will be prioritizing a cornerback with their first selection. Williams might even go No. 2, but it's possible he doesn't wind up in the top 10. But the team we project to pick third here desperately needs a corner, so going No. 3 overall isn't out of the question
15 Might Play For: New York Jets
The Jets have the right set of pieces in place to eventually turn their fortunes around. They got their quarterback in Sam Darnold with the No. 3 pick in this year's draft. Jamal Adams and Leonard Williams are mainstays on an up-and-coming defense, but the Jets need a solid defensive back to complement their talents.
That's where they take Greedy Williams with the No. 3 selection here. New York hasn't had a quality cornerback since pre-2016 Darrelle Revis. The Morris Claiborne and Antonio Cromartie signings simply didn't pan out. They cannot up on Williams here. This is the pick to make.
With over $100 million in cap space this offseason, the Jets can use money to fill up the needs on offense. But there isn't a Pro Bowl cornerback in the free agent pool, so expect them to take Williams if he's on the board when it's the Jets' turn to draft.
14 Pick: Jonah Williams
If the 2019 Draft class wasn't filled with so many pass rushing talents, then Jonah Williams could have been in the running for the No. 1 pick. Instead, he faces the chance of being selected outside of the top 10.
But the team we project to have the fourth overall pick will be in desperate need of finding a top offensive lineman to protect its quarterback and running back. Williams is the top pass protector in the 2019 draft class, the only question is really when he'll be selected in the first round.
I have Williams going earlier than most other prognosticators, but that's because the projected fourth-worst team from 2018 won't be able to avoid taking him.
13 Might Play For: Arizona Cardinals
Yes, the Cardinals need to add more pass rushers to help out cornerback Patrick Peterson on the defensive side of the ball. But at the end of the day, it's Josh Rosen whom the Cardinals are building their franchise around, and finding a top-tier pass protector to help him out is key.
Running back David Johnson should also regain his 2016 form if the offensive line fares better than what we've seen this year. He and Rosen are the center pieces of that offense, and they won't reach their full ceilings if a guy like Williams isn't there to help on the o-line.
Arizona's struggles in protecting the quarterback have been well-documented. This is where they make their move, go slightly off the board and take Williams.
12 Pick: Justin Herbert
The 2019 Draft class doesn't have as much quarterback depth/star power compared to 2018 and other recent years. But Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert will likely be the first one taken in 2019, and it'd be a surprise if he wasn't selected somewhere in the top-10.
Most of the bottom feeders like the San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders and New York Jets already have young quarterbacks set in place. That's one factor that could delay when Herbert gets selected.
But he's the perfect fit for a team that is going to be be making a big-time change behind center this offseason.
11 Might Play For: New York Giants
Eli Manning has endured yet another frustrating season, and there's no way the struggling Giants will retain a 38-year-old quarterback that is way past his playing prime. Manning stands to get traded or released this offseason, and the front office will have an easy choice on draft say.
As noted above, a handful of football's worst teams in 2018 won't be looking for a new quarterback. That means the Giants will have an easy path to drafting Herbert - whether it's with the first, third, fifth, seventh or 10th selection.
Herbert will need a year or two to fully develop, but having Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley as playmakers will help him grow immediately. The Giants and Herbert are the perfect match. Expect it to be official on Draft day.
10 Pick: Ed Oliver
It shouldn't shock too many people if Ed Oliver winds up being a top-three pick in this year's draft. It also shouldn't shock anybody if Ed Oliver winds up being a pick just outside the top-10. His ceiling is insanely high, but there are so many quality defensive linemen/pass rushers available in the draft.
Though Oliver deserves to be a top-three selection, I'm expecting the teams that pick in the third, fourth and fifth slots to address other needs. As such, Oliver will fall outside the opt-five.
But hey, somebody will get their hands on Oliver, the 290-pound defensive tackle who was named a First-team All-American in 2016 and '17. The sky is the limit for this guy, and he should make an immediate impact right away.
9 Might Play For: Jacksonville Jaguars
Some of you were probably expecting to see a quarterback year. My guess is that Jaguars release Blake Bortles and trade for Eli Manning this offseason, or acquire another signal-caller like Nick Foles or Joe Flacco via trade or free agency.
So with that, team president Tom Coughlin won't need to prioritize getting a quarterback on draft day. Rather, he'll add to an extremely dominant defense and give this team a big-time interior lineman in Oliver.
Calais Campbell and Yannick Ngakoue are superstar edge rushers for Doug Marrone, but the Jaguars need to find a guy to add pressure up the middle. Getting Oliver will make their scary front seven even more dominant. And 31 other teams will be stressing out over it.
8 Pick: Brian Burns
Burns is one of the many stud defensive linemen available in this year's draft. As is the case with a handful of the top 15 prospects, it's impossible to determine just where he'll go. Perhaps Burns will be one of the first five selections, but he might even fall outside the top 10 - maybe even the top 15.
With great speed to get around the offensive linemen, Burns promises to be a major impact player right away. He's the kind of player a defense-first coach loves to work around, and the tam we project to pick seventh here will not waste any time. They'll simply want a guy of his caliber.
7 Might Play For: Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions stand to lose standout pass rusher Ezekiel Ansah in free agency, and defensive-minded head coach Matt Patricia will want to replace his talents immediately. Fortunately for the Lions, there are a bulk of pass rushers to choose from, and Burns is probably the best pick here.
The Florida State sensation has tremendous size (6-foot-5, 235 pounds). He's the type of player a coach like Patricia will want to build the defense around. Burns is one of the top edge rushing prospects in recent memory, and the Lions won't want to waste any time here. They should have an easy choice in taking Burns if he's available.
6 Pick: N'Keal Harry
The 2019 Draft class is lacking in depth at the wide receiver position, but Arizona State wideout N'Keal Harry has the chance to be a top-10 selection. We see teams go off the board many times if it means landing a big-time offensive talent, and Harry is such a player.
With great size (6-foot-4, 221 pounds), Harry is the ideal end zone target that teams long for. He's by far the best wide receiver prospect of this class, which helps his chances of going earlier than what many prognosticators think.
The worst teams of 2018 are strongly lacking in quality wide receivers. But one team needs a player of Harry's caliber badly.
5 Might Play For: Buffalo Bills
Since the Buffalo Bills drafted Josh Allen this year, we know they won't be taking a look at Justin Herbert or Drew Lock. And with their defense being one of the most dominant in the NFL this season (credit to head coach Sean McDermott), the Bills can afford to go off the board here and pass on some of the elite pass rushers that will be available here.
The Bills released veteran Kelvin Benjamin and have no quality pass-catchers to help Allen out. He simply won't get better unless the front office supplies him with better wide receivers, and a guy like Harry is perfect for Allen.
Just imagine if Harry emerges as that top wide receiver for Allen. Throw in their elite defensive unit, and the Bills might turn it around faster than you believe.
4 Pick: Jeffery Simmons
Just a warning, folks, that there are plenty of defensive linemen/pass rushers that will appear on this list. Jeffery Simmons might even go higher than this, but the ninth overall selection seems more realistic right now.
The 6-foot-4, 301-pound Simmons was a First-team All-SEC selection in 2017. The Mississippi State product is an elite run-stopper who wins his individual battles in the trenches. This guy has the makings to be a perennial Pro Bowler at the NFL level. Consider him a sleeper for Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate when he's drafted.
There are no concerns about his game. The only question is when he'll get drafted, and where to.
3 Might Play For: Atlanta Falcons
It's been an extremely disappointing season for the Atlanta Falcons, who had hoped to be the first city to host and play in a Super Bowl in the same year. But really, there are few weaknesses on an Atlanta team that's been hit hard by injuries this year.
They won the Calvin Ridley selection, giving Matt Ryan another weapon to work alongside Julio Jones. The offense is set, while Keanu Neal, Vic Beasley and Deion Jones lead one of the game's better young defenses - when healthy.
But Atlanta has struggled to stop the run and generate pressure up the middle in 2018. Adding a interior lineman of Simmons' caliber would be the final piece needed for Dan Quinn to rebuild this group into a championship-caliber unit. Simmons is the must-have player for Atlanta, assuming he's available when they pick.
2 Pick: Josh Allen
Not be confused with Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, this Kentucky product is one of the many premier edge rushers that will be a top-end draft choice. Some mock drafts believe Allen could be a top-five pick, but others don't think he's going until some time later in Round 1.
Allen displays great size and all-around athleticism. There's a chance that he winds up as the best player from this draft class not named Nick Bosa. He has all the tools to be a franchise-changing star. The only question here is how early (or late), in the first round. We'll give him the 10th spot here.
1 Might Play For: Cleveland Browns
The Browns have made plenty of progress this year and likely won't have another top-three draft choice this time around. Such is life when you hit the jackpot with Baker Mayfield and Denzel Ward, who went first and fourth overall in the 2018 draft, respectively.
With Nick Chubb and Jarvis Landry complementing Mayfield on offense, the Browns don't need to address that side of the ball now. They could use another pass rusher to help out Myles Garrett, however, and Allen is the right fit there.
By the time the Browns pick, most of the top defensive linemen will be off the board. But Allen will be a fine add to a stout front seven in The Land.