Top takeaways from first round of 2019 NFL Draft

The first round of the 2019 NFL Draft offered us a ton of surprises. Did the New York Giants really take Daniel Jones with the sixth pick? Their division rivals in the NFC East, the Washington Redskins, seemed to hit a home run with fellow quarterback Dwayne Haskins at the midway point of Round 1.

Meanwhile, the Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders went in different directions along the defensive line — one getting a true stud and the other reaching big time.

It seems like Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim admitted his mistake from a year ago by taking Kyler Murray at No. 1. And remaining in the NFC West, the San Francisco 49ers added the draft’s best player.

These are among the top takeaways from the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.

Matt Patricia turning Lions into Patriots 2.0 

We’re not going to sit back and say this is a bad thing. It isn’t. After signing former Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers to a massive contract last month, Patricia and the Lions went back to the well again on Thursday. The former Patriots assistant selected Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson with the No. 8 overall pick in the draft. Hockenson was the consensus No. 1 tight end in the draft and is seen as a freak of nature.

It’s rather clear that Detroit is trying to provide Matthew Stafford with the same type of weapons we’ve seen Tom Brady excel with in New England. In this case, it’s almost a carbon copy of Rob Gronkowksi. It should do wonders for Stafford and Co.

Raiders’ drama seemed to be real 

Jon Gruden and Co. were apparently looking to move up for either defensive tackle Quinnen Williams or edge-rusher Nick Bosa. The target area was the San Francisco 49ers at No. 2 overall. Instead, Oakland stood pat with the fourth pick and selected Clemson edge-rusher Clelin Ferrell.

While seen as a first-round prospect, Ferrell was nowhere near projected to go within the top 10, let alone the top five. In fact, Oakland selected him over fellow pass-rusher Josh Allen. It was a major reach at an area in the draft that teams must avoid reaches. It also lends credence to the idea that predraft drama in Oakland’s war room was real. Oakland then went running back Josh Jacobs with the second of its first-round picks before adding safety Johnathan Abram to close out Day 1. All three of these picks were reaches.

Bills get a real steal in Ed Oliver 

After seeing Oakland reach with Ferrell and the New York Giants come out of left field with their selection of Daniel Jones, Buffalo was able to add an elite player at a need position. A dominant figure at Houston, Oliver came under scrutiny leading up the draft. In no way does this mean the defensive tackle isn’t an elite-level talent.

It really seems that teams analyzed Oliver’s game too much. He proved to be overwhelming for college competition. He could be an instant Pro Bowl performer. After rumors persisted that Buffalo might move into the top three for fellow defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, the team added a value pick a nine.

Washington quiets critics for now 

It was being reported in the lead-up to the draft that Washington was potentially looking to trade up for Daniel Jones. In fact, there seemed to be some disagreement between members of the front office. Had owner Daniel Snyder taken over the big board? Apparently not. Standing pat at 15 overall, Washington was able to land the consensus No. 2 quarterback in the draft in the form of Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins.

This represents a major coup for Washington, especially given the injury issues this team is facing in the quarterback room. The Skins didn’t have to move up for Haskins. Instead, they saw him fall right on to their lap. That’s just great for a much-maligned front office.

49ers building a bully 

Most fans in Northern California were pleading for general manager John Lynch and Co. not to overthink this. Selecting No. 2 overall, San Francisco was in position to land the draft’s best overall player. Once the Cardinals picked Kyler Murray at one, this became a reality.

In the end, these 49ers nabbed Ohio State edge-rusher Nick Bosa to team up with recently acquired Pro Bowler Dee Ford on the outside. Add in another Pro Bowler in that of DeForest Buckner at defensive tackle, and this front seven is absolutely stacked. That’s a good thing with Murray, Russell Wilson and Jared Goff in the NFC West.

Panthers ignore glaring offensive tackle need

Florida State edge-rusher Brian Burns could very well be a dynamo at the next level. In no way does this mean that continuing to ignore pass protection in front of often-hobbled former NFL MVP Cam Newton is a recipe for success.

Alabama’s Jonah Williams was off the board when Carolina selected 16th overall. Even then, two other offensive tackles were selected almost immediately after the Panthers’ pick. It just make no real sense for Carolina to continue ignoring pass protection in front of Newton. It’s that simple.

We’re not sure what the Giants are doing

New York wasn’t interested in drafting a quarterback until it was. David Gettleman and Co. didn’t show much confidence in Haskins or Murray before meeting with them. In the end, these Giants made the most eye-opening move of the first round in selecting Duke’s quarterback Daniel Jones No. 6 overall.

It even led to Haskins laughing in the green room. Jones is seen as a major project and likely won’t be ready to start for two more seasons. Then with the 17th pick — acquired in the Odell Beckham Jr. trade — New York went defensive tackle in the form of Dexter Lawrence. That’s one way to get help for Jones and reigning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkley on offense. Ouch!

Some curious moves from the Packers

Former Michigan standout pass-rusher Rashan Gary didn’t seem to be need for Green Bay after the team added edge-rushers Za’Darius Smith and Preston Smith in free agency. Add in injury concerns to Gary, and it was a surprise at No. 12 overall.

With their second pick of Day 1 — acquired in a trade with the Saints last year — the Packers picked up a fast-rising safety in the form of Darnell Savage. This was also a curious move from general manager Brian Gutekunst and Co. It’s obviously too early to draw conclusions here. But the Packers went with two boom-or-bust prospects.

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Giants expected to formally commit to QB Eli Manning as starter in 2019

Paul Schwartz of the New York Post examines some of the difficult decisions facing the Giants as the 2019 draft approaches. The Scouting Combine gets underway this week, and when Giants GM Dave Gettleman speaks on Wednesday — which will mark the first time he speaks publicly since the end of the 2018 season — Schwartz expects he will formally commit to QB Eli Manning as the starter for 2019.

After that, though, the picture gets a little fuzzy. Gettleman would love to find Manning’s successor in the draft, but he eschewed high-end collegiate QB talent last year, and the quarterbacks in this year’s class are not as heralded. Gettleman has long maintained he will not grade quarterbacks on a curve just because there is pressure to pick one. The Giants have plenty of other needs to fill, so they will be one of the more interesting teams to follow in the next couple of months.

Let’s take a look at a few more NFC items:

  • In a separate piece, Schwartz looks at three players the Giants will be monitoring closely at the Combine, all of whom fill one of their above-referenced needs: QB Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State), LB Devin White (LSU), and OT Jonah Williams (Alabama). Ryan Dunleavy of says the team’s top priority this offseason should be adding defensive playmakers, and Dunleavy takes a deeper dive into some of the collegiate prospects Big Blue should examine.
  • The 49ers will certainly add a receiver or two to the top of their depth chart this offseason (like Antonio Brown, for instance), but there should still be plenty of opportunities for third-year player Trent Taylor. Her underwent back surgery in June, and while Taylor ended up playing 14 games last season — compiling 26 catches for 215 yards and a touchdown — he says he never felt fully healthy. But as Jennifer Lee Chan of NBC Sports Bay Area writes, Taylor believes he is finally back to normal, and thinks a regular offseason of work will prime him for a breakout campaign. Taylor is also looking forward to working with his new position coach, Wes Welker, who certainly knows a thing or two about making hay as an undersized wideout.
  • The Falcons recently re-signed linebacker Bruce Carter and defensive end Steven Means to one-year pacts, and D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution passes along the contract details. Carter will earn $930K (making his contract a veteran minimum deal), and Means will earn $895K. The minimum salary for a player with Means’ service time is $805K, but Atlanta gave him a $90K signing bonus. He will carry a $735K cap hit, while Carter’s cap number is $645K.
  • It appears Cardinals pass-rusher Markus Golden will be allowed to hit the open market next month.

By: Rory Parks

Original Article

Heisman race after Week 11: Now it’s getting interesting

Who are the leaders in the race for the 2018 Heisman Trophy?

So who’s really in the lead? How would the race go if the season ended right now? After Week 11, combining big stats and big performances on the big stage, here we go …

5 Players Who Deserve Also Receiving Votes Love …

In alphabetical order …

QB Eric Dungey, Syracuse

QB Sam Ehlinger, Texas

QB Jake Fromm, Georgia

QB McKenzie Milton, UCF

RB Dexter Williams, Notre Dame

5. QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State

He’s suffering from the team being so underwhelming.

The Buckeyes might not be doing anything amazing – other than getting to 9-1 and being deep in the hunt for the Big Ten Championship and the College Football Playoff – but Haskins continues to be amazing.

Ho-hum. He just dealt with one of the nation’s top defenses and threw for 227 yards and a score in the win over Michigan State. The key was not screwing up. The Spartans needed Buckeye mistakes to pull off the win, and they didn’t come.

Even after failing to hit 300 yards in either of the last two games, Haskins is still third in the nation in total passing yards, throwing for 3,280 with 33 touchdowns and six touchdowns.

If he’s able to blow through Maryland, Michigan, and Northwestern for a Big Ten title, he’s going to New York.

4. QB Will Grier, West Virginia

This might be the season of Tua and Kyler, but Tagovailoa’s Heisman stock might be falling a wee bit because of his knee injury, and Grier is getting at least one shot at Murray to make his statement.

Third in the nation in passing efficiency, it’s not even close. He’s on an island, currently way ahead of Notre Dame’s Ian Book, and behind Tagovailoa, completing 69% of his throws for 329 yards per game with 31 touchdowns and eight picks.

Not only does he have his signature moment – the finish against Texas – but he’s having his best run of the season when the team needs him the most.

Since the loss to Iowa State, he has cranked out three touchdown passes in each of the last three games, with well over 1,000 yards and just one pick.

And here go with the stat-sheet fillers with Oklahoma State and Oklahoma up next. Win those two, get to the Big 12 Championship, and earn a spot among the Heisman finalists.

3. QB Gardner Minshew, Washington State 

The one big knock is that no one outside of the Pac-12 world is seeing him play. That’s a shame considering he’s the nation’s leading passer by a mile.

Ole Miss QB Jordan Ta’amu is averaging 337.4 yards per game. Alan Bowman of Texas Tech is averaging 329.8, and West Virginia’s Will Grier is averaging 329.

Minshew? 385.2 yards per game.

Since 2010, only four quarterbacks finished a season averaging more yards per game. Houston’s Case Keenum in 2011, Fresno State’s Derek Carr in 2013, Connor Halliday for Wazzu in 2014, and some Patrick Mahomes guy for Texas Tech in 2016.

Brilliant, the 319 yards he threw for in the opener against Wyoming represented the low mark for the season. On the year, he’s hitting 70% of his passes for 3,852 yards and 29 touchdowns with seven picks.

Best of all, Wazzu keeps on winning. On a six-game run since the loss to USC, the Cougars are just two wins away – Arizona and Washington – from playing for the Pac-12 title.

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By: Pete Fiutak