What should happen in first round of 2019 NFL Draft

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One to 32, here’s my best guess what teams from Tempe to Foxboro are thinking—and who they should be targeting in the first round.

1. Arizona: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma. I wouldn’t even consider offers, unless they’re ridiculously excessive. Picking Murray here just makes too much sense, with Kingsbury in love with him. GM Steve Keim has to figure, If I hired this offensive innovator as coach, and he wants Murray badly, why would we not give him what he wants? Even with a devalued Rosen going east (Washington and the Giants lead in the clubhouse, as I explain below), this is a move Arizona has to make.

2. San Francisco: Nick Bosa, edge rusher, Ohio State. Big pressure on the Niners to finally draft a pressure player on the line, after taking defensive linemen with their top picks in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and hitting big only on DeForest Buckner in ’16. Buckner, in 2018, was the first Niner to have a double-digit sack season in six years. Bosa’s been injured seriously in two of his last four football seasons, so he doesn’t come without risk. But he’s the right pick here.

3. New York Jets: Trade down. Multiple teams lust after Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, and if I had to bet, I’d put my money on GM Mike Maccagnan picking him here. He’s the cleanest prospect in this draft, and I think if the Jets auction the pick, they’d get three premier picks in return. I’d rather have the three picks—maybe two in the top 45 this year and another high pick next year—to get Sam Darnold a top receiver or tight end plus a building-block offensive lineman (Kansas State’s Dalton Risner?), at least, this year.

4. Oakland: Josh Allen, edge rusher, Kentucky. Jon Gruden picks Khalil Mack II, he hopes, and pays 30 cents on the Mack dollar for him. The best two edge players in the draft this year should be gone in the top four.

5. Tampa Bay: Trade down. That’s a strength of GM Jason Licht, who has done it two of the last three years. And because they don’t seem inclined to sign defensive tackle Gerald McCoy long-term (the Bucs have cap issues), and they could trade him, and they need multiple picks at reasonable prices. If they could deal down to a QB-craving team (Miami at 13?), Houston’s Ed Oliver or Clemson’s Clelin Ferrell could buttress a needy defensive front.

6. New York Giants: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri. Doubt GM Dave Gettleman will do this, or take any quarterback here. (In fact, I keep hearing Dwayne Haskins is sinking, and may be the fourth passer picked in this draft.) Gettleman seems to have more of a mind to fix his lines in this draft. But a franchise passer trumps all. Lock or Haskins should be the pick here—unless the Giants think it’s a lock that Lock will be there at 17.

7. Jacksonville: Jawaan Taylor, T, Florida. “I’ll be shocked if the Jaguars don’t go tackle here,” said one respected GM. Seems like Taylor is the most prepared to be a first-year starter, and could be plug-and-play at right tackle over Will Richardson, last year’s fourth-round pick.

8. Detroit: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa. Hmmm. Even after raiding Jesse James from the Steelers in free agency? Yes. Hockenson’s one the best blocking/receiving tight ends—and he’s passionate about the game—to come out of college football in years. Time for Matthew Stafford to have some easy completions.

9. Buffalo: Jonah Williams, T, Alabama. Odd. Bills haven’t taken a tackle in the last four drafts, and the last one they took high in a draft with an Alabama guy, the failed Cyrus Kouandjio, five years ago in round two. But they band-aided the wideout need in free agency (John BrownCole Beasley), and long-term tackle is still a major need position.

10. Denver: Devin White, LB, LSU. Vic Fangio froths at putting the best linebacker and a sure, physical tackler between Von Miller and Bradley Chubb. Keep hearing Denver and a quarterback here, but it’s not what I’d do this year, this high.

11. Cincinnati: Multiple choice. I’d love to know what new coach Zac Taylor really thinks of Andy Dalton, and whether he believes one of these passers this year is a better option. Assuming Taylor is okay with Dalton, there’s a desperate need at tackle. I’d go Cody Ford, the Oklahoma tackle. Too high for him, but the need is acute.

12. Green Bay: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi. Pack should be able to scotch-tape tight end in 2019 with Jimmy Graham/Marcedes Lewis combo platter, so I’d go with a monster receiver Aaron Rodgers might actually learn to trust opposite Davante Adams. This is not the Green Bay way—the Pack traditionally waits to get a wideout down the line. Metcalf could break that mold.

13. Miami: Quarterback or edge rusher. Maybe new offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea and GM Chris Grier have fallen in love with one of the passers. I’d lean that way if I were the Dolphins. But pass-rush is a major need, so I could see Montez Sweat or Brian Burns too. Either would be good here.

14. Atlanta: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston. Pair Oliver with Grady Jarrett, and Dan Quinn, finally, could have the kind of interior terrorism he’s yearned for since arriving in Atlanta. I understand they are mirror players. I also understand how difficult it would be for an interior offensive line to block these two.

15. Washington: Tackle or edge rusher or corner. Imagine being midway through the first round and having your pick of the corner market. Washington could have that, but the corner market is deeper than tackle, and thus a decent corner could be had on day two. If Dillard or Ford is on the board, I’d pick either. Keep in mind that Washington’s my favorite in the clubhouse to deal for Josh Rosen if the Arizona QB is traded.

16. Carolina: Montez Sweat, edge rusher, Mississippi State. The Usain Bolt of defensive linemen could well be gone by now, but he could drop a bit because of inconsistent college play, his minor heart condition, and the fact he’s a little stiff as a rusher. But post-Julius Peppers, Carolina should run this card to the podium in Nashville if Sweat is there midway through the round.

17. New York Giants: Depends on the first pick. If the Giants didn’t take a quarterback at six and Drew Lock is here, he’s the guy. If so, best available offensive or defensive lineman, such as guard/center Garrett Bradbury, who could compete to play opening day at a need position, center.

18. Minnesota: One of a number of offensive linemen, like Dalton Risner, T, Kansas State, or Erik McCoy, C, Texas A&M. If they don’t take the best available protector, I’ll be stunned. The line’s a major need. It got coordinator John DeFilippo fired last year.

19. Tennessee: Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama. Marcus Mariota needs an intermediate friend, and Delanie Walker, coming off an injury, will be 35 in August. Smith’s an opening-day contributor.

20. Pittsburgh: Devin Bush, LB, Michigan. When the Steelers lost Ryan Shazier to a spinal injury 16 months ago, they lost the heart of the defense. Bush isn’t Shazier, but he’d give Mike Tomlin the closest thing to Shazier they’ve had.

21. Seattle: Trade down. If the Seahawks hold the pick, it should be for a year-one starter on the offensive line like Bradbury, the center-guard. As it stands … Team most likely to trade down in round one: Seattle. Team with most urgency to trade down in round one: Seattle. GM John Schneider would rather trade on draft day than breathe, and he has but two picks in the top 120: this one and the 84th overall. Over-under on Schneider’s trade-downs on draft weekend: four.

22. Baltimore: Trade down. In Eric DeCosta’s first draft as GM, the safe thing to do—with just two picks in the top 100—is what is in DeCosta’s blood: Trade. If not, and if an explosive wideout like D.K. Metcalf is gone, the smart pick here would be a 10-year center—Erik McCoy of Texas A&M.

23. Houston: The best tackle. I don’t care who it is. The Texans have to get two good tackles in this draft. Andre Dillard, Cody Ford, Dalton Risner … one should still be here. If not, GM Brian Gaine’s got to trade down for value.

24. Oakland: Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama. It’s a great story, Marshawn Lynch being the billboard for his hometown Raiders. Rebel, rebel. Guess how many carries Lynch has had in the last four NFL seasons? It’s 408. Guess who turns 33 two weeks from today? Time marches on, and a guy who’s averaged 102 carries a year in the last four and who is ancient by running-back standards is maybe a complementary player this year. Raiders need a stud back, and I hear they love Jacobs.

25. Philadelphia: Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma. Incredible how similar picks 24 and 25 are. Eagles trading for DeSean Jackson, who will be 33 this year, and he starts a second act in Philly, like Lynch has done in Oakland. Jackson is the same height (5-10) and six pounds heavier at 175 than Brown, who should become the long-term deep threat for Carson Wentz.

26. Indianapolis: Best available front-seven player. Brian Burns still there? Good; he can learn from Justin Houston. Clelin Ferrell? Likely gone. Christian Wilkins? Excellent choice—a 315-pound space-eater who could free Darius Leonard to make even more plays in 2019.

27. Oakland: Nasir Adderley, S, Delaware, or Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame. I tend to think Adderley, because he’s a versatile player (three-year CB, one-year safety) who could fill the hole at safety next to Karl Joseph or plug at corner or nickel as well. Good weapon for defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. The luxury of extra picks might make defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons tempting. He’d have been a top 10 pick were it not for his torn ACL in February.

28. Los Angeles Chargers: Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State. Derwin James and Abram in the back end for the next eight years? Sign me up for that.

29. Kansas City: Rashan Gary, edge rusher, Michigan, or best edge player available. Chiefs have gotten rid of their best three pass-rushers in the last 13 months—Tamba Hali, Justin Houston and Dee Ford. If there’s one left in the round who can walk, chew gum, and get around tackles at the same time, GM Brett Veach will nab him.

30. Green Bay: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa, or best available offensive lineman. Keep hearing Fant was a distant second to Hockenson among the football people at Iowa, so that could give the Packers pause. They need a long-term tight end, and this could be a good spot to get one.

31. Los Angeles Rams: Best available offensive lineman … Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College, or Elgton Jenkins, C, Mississippi State. The Rams have major long-term issues on their offensive line. The 2018 starters from center to left tackle—John SullivanRodger Saffold and Andrew Whitworth—will likely all be gone by opening day 2020. Reinforcements must come.

32. New England: Best corner, edge player or receiver. I’d take Greedy Williams, the corner from LSU. Serious top 10 prospect in October, and nothing happened to knock him down other than the fact that so many other corners are close to him in ability. Pats can dip into deep wideout/tight end market at 56, 64 or 73 overall, or with a trade. The tight end who might fit well is Texas A&M’s Jace Sternberger—if the Patriots think he can block well enough in their scheme. He can stretch a defense.


The one trend I hear, talking to people around the league, backs up what Gil Brandt said at the top of this column: There is no chalk. Teams will understand the strength at edge rusher is very early, the strength at tackle is from 7 to 30, the strength at cornerback and receiver is 25 to 70, the strength at quarterback after Kyler Murray is in the eye of the beholder, and so that will affect when teams with major needs at those spots pick their guys.

I can see once-beloved players like tight Noah Fant, wide receiver A.J. Brown, defensive tackle Jeffrey Simmons, corners Byron Murphy and DeAndre Baker, and defensive end Jachai Polite fall to the second round. I hear Dwayne Haskins could plummet, but that could be late-prep lying too.

It’s going to be fun. I say this every year: The NFL does a good job of building the suspense leading into the draft, and the NFL does a bad job helping teams prepare for the season. There are 115 days between the last day of the regular season and the first day of the draft. There are 90 days between the end of the draft and the start of most teams’ training camps. The NFL could easily cut out three to four weeks of draft prep (which is draft over-prep) and give teams more time with their draft choices, helping their readiness for the season. But you know why the league does this. It’s all about the hype machine. With ABC, ESPN and NFL Network doing the draft live this year, networks are paying for programming. Well-hyped programming, with some mystique. And that is what they shall get.

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Revisiting Saints trading entire draft for Ricky Williams and the deals that almost happened

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“Twenty years ago—that’s crazy,” the Washington coach at the time, Norv Turner, said Friday. As was the deal. At the time, so much about it was revolutionary. The noted draft-value trade chart, invented by the Cowboys a few years earlier, had the Saints trading away 4,441 points of draft value in exchange for 1,700 points—the value of the fifth overall pick. “When the coaches were told about it that day,” Turner said, “we looked at each other and said, ‘This isn’t real. You gotta do that.’ “ And GM Charley Casserly, negotiating with Saints GM Billy Kuharich, agreed to it eagerly.

Ditka was smitten with Williams after his 2,124-yard, 27-TD senior year at Texas, and he proclaimed at the league meetings a month before the draft that he’d trade his entire draft for Williams. “Put us in line,” Casserly told Kuharich. Except New Orleans didn’t have a second-round pick that year. So Casserly said he’d have to have a first and third in 2000 to make up for the lack of a second-rounder. The Saints did it. (Man, why not ask for Ditka’s first-born too?) “A generational trade,” Casserly called it.

From the moment the deal happened, there were problems. Big problems. Williams was intensely shy. The Saints flew him to New Orleans for a post-draft press conference. On the plane, he was given a Saints cap to wear. “I’m not wearing that,” Williams said. He was told he’d be doing the press conference from a podium. “I’m not doing that,” he said.

Uh-oh.

When the dreadlocked Williams got to the Saints offices, Ditka greeted him wearing a wig with dreadlocks, and a flowered shirt and shorts. Williams did the press conference, standing to the side of the podium, not behind it. There was a fan fest with maybe 5,000 fans there on the property, fans going crazy because they got the best player in college football, and they chanted for Williams. Someone with Williams that day said, “Ricky looked around, and he was in shock. This was not what he thought the NFL would be. The look on his face was, ‘What the f— is this?’ “

Ricky-mania was in full swing. Williams dressed in a wedding gown and Ditka in a wedding tux, and they posed as bride and groom for an August 1999 cover of ESPN The Magazine. Heaven knows why Williams did that, but the season started bad and got worse. Williams’ shyness bordered on the weird. I went into New Orleans to interview him, and though pleasant enough, he insisted on doing the interview with his helmet on, with the dark shield covering his face. The Saints went 3-13, and Ditka was fired.

Williams lasted three seasons with the Saints before being traded to Miami in 2002. Other than helping New Orleans win a division title in 2000, Williams’ tenure in New Orleans was more circus than football. I texted Ditka on Friday and would have loved to speak with him about the trade and the weird year, but he didn’t get back to me.

“Oh my God,” his assistant head coach, Rick Venturi, said the other day. “That trade was a sugar rush for the franchise. We were at a low ebb. Everyone makes fun of the deal, because we gave up the farm to get Ricky, but we really trusted Mike. He’d won before, and he gave us faith we’d win with him.”

Postscript I: The Bengals, picking third, had a chance to make the same deal Washington made. Eight picks to move from three to 12 with New Orleans. Nope, the Bengals said. We’re staying. We’re picking the guy we want badly. Akili Smith.

Postscript II: Casserly thought he had a deal with Chicago, picking seventh, to move from 12 to seven if the player Washington wanted was available. That player: Champ Bailey. So after the deal with the Saints went through, Casserly called the Bears back, ready to move up five slots in exchange for third, fourth and fifth-round picks. “We had a deal, but they upped the ante on me when I called back,” he said. The Bears wanted Washington’s third-rounder in 2000, or there’d be no deal. Casserly, fuming, took a deep breath and agreed to the ransom. “If you really want the player, you’ve got to take a step back and take the emotion out of it,” he said. Washington got Bailey at seven.

Postscript III: I didn’t ask Casserly if he got any satisfaction from the quarterback Chicago took to be its long-term QB solution at 12—Cade McNown, who won three games in two years for the Bears. McNown was a disaster, and was out of football after two seasons.

Postscript IV: Casserly’s reward for getting those eight picks and maneuvering to pick up Bailey, and following that with Washington winning the NFC East? He got fired at the end of the year after new owner Dan Snyder took over.

Postscript V: Bailey lasted only five years in Washington before a contract dispute prompted the team to trade him to Denver for Clinton Portis. Bailey played 10 of his 15 seasons in a 15-year career for Denver. After being elected to the Hall last February, Bailey got a call from Casserly. “You realize I never would have traded you,” Casserly said.

Postscript VI: Williams had a good NFL career, in between missing two years for a “retirement” and a marijuana suspension. He finished with 10,009 rushing yards in 11 seasons, 31st on the all-time rushing list. Interesting who is 32nd: Clinton Portis.

They don’t make trades like they used to. 

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It’s now or never for Seahawks to sign Russell Wilson to long-term deal

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I don’t think signing a boilerplate contract averaging $34 million a year—something Wilson never could have dreamed possible when he was the 75th player picked in the 2012 draft—will be enough for him, and for his representative, Mark Rodgers, a baseball agent with one football client, Wilson. I think Wilson actually would be content playing out his current contract and then working under the franchise tag for the next two seasons rather than taking a typical mega-millions contract. Playing year-to-year, Wilson would average $27.8 million a year over the next three years, rather than a solid $34 million a year over five or six.

That seems ridiculous. There’s a few reasons why it’s not.

But first, this deadline agent Rodgers has given Seattle. Today’s a big day in the Pacific Northwest if you take Wilson and Rodgers at their word, that—according to a source close to the talks—they say they won’t do a long-term deal with the Seahawks if it’s not done by tonight. Read that last sentence again. I didn’t mean they’d put off further talks on a new contract till 2020 if it’s not done by tonight. I meant Wilson and Rodgers don’t plan to negotiate further with the Seahawks, period. My source says they’ve told GM John Schneider it has to be done now, or not at all.

That’s why, with this being what Wilson likely believes is his last chance to get a truly market deal in Seattle, I would be shocked if he leaves this all to Rodgers, regardless how much he trusts his agent. Wilson’s an activist. I would bet he wants Schneider and/or Carroll to hear from him directly about why he wants to get this deal done now, and he wants to get it done differently than other quarterback deals have been done. I’ve known Wilson since training camp of his rookie year, and he’s one of the ultimate hands-on players I’ve met. He has never struck me as the type to hand a job this big to his agent and say, Good luck. Call me when it’s done.

If it does get done, my source says the contract would likely include devices to adjust future years of the deal based on how high the cap goes up year to year, or based on new revenue streams (gambling revenue, for example, or a TV contract that explodes). If it is not done, it means the Seahawks have determined Wilson isn’t worth setting such a precedent. (No NFL player’s contract fluctuates based on cap increases or increases in the league’s bottom line unknown at the time of signing.) That would be understandable, but would it be the right call for the Seahawks? It could be a potentially career-altering risk for Schneider and coach Pete Carroll.

Of course, there’s no real reason why a deal couldn’t be done July 15 or Dec. 15 either. But waiting would be calling Wilson’s bluff. Maybe you win, maybe you lose. It’s a risk. Normally, talking about hard negotiations, I’d say big deal. Quarterbacks—all except Kirk Cousins—might play a year on the franchise tag, but they eventually sign long-term and stay with their teams. I think there’s a good chance Wilson could be different.

Like Cousins was, Wilson is not afraid to play year-to-year: this year at $17 million, and then as many as two years on the franchise tag, at $30.3 million in 2020 and $36.4 million in 2021. If the Seahawks chose to franchise Wilson a third time, the cost would rise to $52.4 million for 2022. Which would be a very difficult one-year salary for any team to digest, unless the cap skyrockets in 2021, when a new CBA is due to take effect.

Most players want the assurance of guaranteed money and long-term security. They’ll take significant guaranteed money in exchange for fighting for what Cousins got (a fully guaranteed three-year, $84-million contract) or what Wilson presumably wants (a fluctuating contract, based on the league’s future success). But from what I hear, Wilson and Rodgers feel the league could be on the precipice of major new revenue streams. Recently, Bills co-owner Kim Pegula said she wanted to have the opportunity to provide sports betting inside their stadium. What might the NFL’s take on in-stadium gambling be, and how would that be divided with the players? Could Facebook or some digital brand bid an unheard-of sum for the rights to part of the TV deal in 2022?

Because the game is so injurious, you don’t see many players going year-to-year. But Wilson’s durability is a big part of his football appeal. Since the day Wilson was drafted in 2012, the Seahawks have played 125 regular-season and postseason games. Wilson has started them all. Last year, he was the only NFL quarterback to take every offensive snap for his team. In the last two years, he has played 2,186 of Seattle’s 2,191 offensive snaps. That could change in an instant, of course. But Wilson is fine gambling on himself, and on his durability.

For those who would not put Wilson in the same stratum as Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady or Drew Brees, it’s understandable. But Wilson is the second-highest-rated quarterback in history (100.3). He has 83 career wins, regular-season and postseason, in seven years, an average of 11.8 a year.

Schneider, of course, has to worry about 53 players, not just one. Linebacker Bobby Wagner is due to hit free agency after this season, and he’s had the kind of career that one day will merit Hall of Fame consideration. If Wilson, the offensive leader, gets a precedent-setting contract, then what of the unquestioned leader of the defense, Wagner? He certainly wouldn’t get quarterback money, but Wagner might want to push for the kind of financial incentives Wilson gets.

A few other things, counter to the current rumor mill. I do not believe Wilson is pushing for a trade right now, to the Giants, or anywhere. I believe he wants to work out a deal with Seattle. I believe Wilson wants to know where he stands with the Seahawks long-term, which is one of the reasons why he is pushing hard for a deal to be done now. I believe if the Seahawks do not do a deal by midnight tonight, it doesn’t meant they don’t want Wilson to be their quarterback for the next decade—it just means they’re not willing to set a contractual precedent like tying his contract to how fast, and how high, the cap rises over the life of the deal.

Pragmatically, if I’m Wilson, everyone around the league views me as an Eagle Scout type, and as long as I step on the field, I’ve got to be all-in, and a team guy all the way. That is the only way he can maximize his value long-term, and perhaps post-Seahawks. And if I’m the Seahawks, I know the kind of person I have in Wilson, so maybe I feel: Let’s go year-to-year over the next three years, for reasonable money for a franchise quarterback, and hope at some point in those three years there’s a thaw and we can re-visit this contract.

Whatever happens, this is a dramatic day in Seattle. I don’t know which way it’ll go, but I don’t think it’s time to shred the “3” jerseys yet. Gut feeling: At the very least Wilson plays in Seattle three more years. And a lot can happen in those three years.

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