Grading the First Round of the 2019 NFL Draft

The New York Giants surprised many by taking Daniel Jones with the sixth pick

The first round of the 2019 NFL Draft is in the books and it threw more than a few curveballs from start to finish down in rainy Nashville. We’ve still got two more days and six more rounds left to go but this year’s draft process has already been fascinating to see play out.


Which teams did the best when they were on the clock? Which reached for somebody they could have gotten later and lost value? Which whiffed completely and will have fans questioning what the front office is doing? Here’s a look at how each team did with their first-round pick and why it will — or won’t — work out down the road.


2019 NFL Draft: First-Round Grades


1. Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

Kliff Kingsbury stayed true to his word and grabbed his guy atop the draft. This is a thrilling pick to be sure but there are still plenty of questions after drafting a QB in back-to-back years with a top-10 pick and tons of other needs. Regardless, the future of the franchise is set behind one of the most electric signal-callers to come out in years.


Grade: A-


2. San Francisco 49ers: Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State

The front office has no qualms spending yet another pick on a defensive lineman given what Baby Bosa can bring to the table rushing the passer. There is an injury concern after what he went through in his final season with the Buckeyes but the team still landed the guy many thought was the best player in the draft.


Grade: A


3. New York Jets: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

Too bad the draft wasn’t at Radio City Music Hall so Jets fans could celebrate a pick for once. Williams is one of the best prospects in the draft and was the best player in college football last year on the defensive side of the ball. He provides a much-needed boost to Gang Green’s new defense and might be the guy we talk about most out of this draft a few years from now.


Grade: A+


4. Oakland Raiders: Clelin Ferrell: DE, Clemson

Mike Mayock sure went with the bold selection for his first pick as GM of the Raiders. This one was a head-scratcher in many respects. Ferrell is a good player, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. He’ll provide much-needed pass rush and is polished enough to have a big impact early on. But No. 4 is super high for somebody most teams had graded much lower on their boards and could have been had later in the round.


Grade: B-


5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Devin White, LB, LSU

The Bucs front office was sitting pretty in this draft and the team gets an absolute stud to build around on defense in White. Kwon Alexander may have left in free agency but the team isn’t sweating it at all thanks to this pick.


Grade: A


6. New York Giants: Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

Giants fans have to be pulling their hair out over A) not drafting a QB last year (like Sam Darnold), B) drafting Jones here, when most had him going much later on in the draft. Can he successfully take over for Eli Manning? Sure, the underlying skills and physical tools are there. But there are enough glaring flaws in his game that would have made him available later if the Giants wanted to trade back.


Grade: C


7. Jacksonville Jaguars: Josh Allen, EDGE, Kentucky

The Jaguars probably can’t believe their luck to land a talent like this without having to move up. Allen can do just so much and he’s got the benefit of having played so much football at a high level. Another nice addition to a defense full of athletes that is hard to game plan against.

Grade: A


8. Detroit Lions: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

This was a pick you could see coming for a while given all the New England connections with the front office and coaching staff who know how important the position is. While a few Lions fans might have flashbacks of missing on another tight end this high in the draft, Hockenson is one of the cleanest prospects on offense available and a great addition for Matthew Stafford.


Grade: A+


9. Buffalo Bills: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

All of college football celebrates this pick after seeing Oliver look like a man among boys with the Cougars. The retirement of Kyle Williams won’t sting quite as much with the big fella making his way to Orchard Park as the perfect replacement on and off the field.


Grade: A+


10. Pittsburgh Steelers: Devin Bush, LB, Michigan

Talk about a perfect fit between how a team plays defense and how much he’s needed to fill a gap on the depth chart. The Steelers didn’t even have to part with all that much in the draft to move up so many spots to nab the Wolverine star either.


Grade: A


11. Cincinnati Bengals: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama

Williams was a guy some viewed as a guard but he could be a rookie starter at right tackle for a Bengals team that has to be more consistent up front. With an offensive-minded staff in play, nabbing a polished offensive lineman early makes plenty of sense even if Williams’ upside isn’t as great as others. Safe? Sure, but that’s good enough for this franchise.


Grade: A-


12. Green Bay Packers: Rashan Gary, EDGE, Michigan

The potential is certainly there for Gary to be a dominant force given his size, speed and power. Green Bay is known for its ability to develop and that might just be the place to get the most out of the talented (if inconsistent) player.


Grade: B


13. Miami Dolphins: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

This is a great marriage of a new regime needing a building block on defense and a player who can deliver on the field, in the interview room and in the community. Wilkins is also a great fit in the division, where pressure up the middle is a must. Only question left is… can he also play tailback in Miami?


Grade: A


14. Atlanta Falcons: Chris Lindstrom, OG, Boston College

Massive reach on most boards? Well, yes. But the window to win now in Atlanta is starting to close and protecting Matt Ryan makes a lot of sense. That said, with so much ammo and a GM that likes to make moves in the draft, this was a rather uninspiring pick even if it’ll pay off in the run game right away.


Grade: B


15. Washington Redskins: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

There was a lot of panic in D.C. that Daniel Snyder would do something rash in trying to go up and get Haskins. Instead they land the talented signal-caller who returns to the DMV area. His big arm will be great fun in the offense and the QB of the future will likely be the QB of the present right away in 2019.


Grade: A-


16. Carolina Panthers: Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State

He’s a little undersized but the get off and athleticism Burns brings to the table is ridiculous. For a team that needs to replace a lot rushing the passer, this makes plenty of sense and the former Seminole can really grow as a player learning from guys like Luke Kuechly.


Grade: B+


17. New York Giants: Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

Very much a Dave Gettleman pick. Lawrence is the rarest combo of size and athleticism. He can get push up the middle as the anchor of a defense and get after quarterbacks once he’s moved them from the pocket. Not the sexiest of selections in exchange for Odell Beckham Jr. but one that makes the defense better.


Grade: A-


18. Minnesota Vikings: Garrett Bradbury, OC, NC State

Here's a perfect marriage of team need and the top player at the position in several years. He’ll be a nice upgrade calling plays up front and has a good shot at being a Game 1 starter based on how prepared he is.


Grade: A+


19. Tennessee Titans: Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

In terms of value, this is a terrific pick because Simmons is a top-10 talent on just about everybody’s board. The only issue is that it’s a selection geared more toward 2020. Still the combo of him and Jurrell Casey has a chance to be the best in the league in short order.


Grade: A-


20. Denver Broncos: Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

The Broncos provided a really nice boost to their passing game for Joe Flacco and company by nabbing Fant while also adding additional picks in later rounds from the Steelers. While he won’t provide a huge boost in the run game, the Hawkeyes tight end can be real special stretching the middle of the field.


Grade: B


21. Green Bay Packers: Darnell Savage Jr., S, Maryland

One of the draft’s fastest risers, there was enough buzz about Savage that the Pack had to go up and get him. His speed is certainly evident and will help continue the re-tooling of the secondary by solidifying that safety spot alongside recently signed Adrian Amos.


Grade: B


22. Philadelphia Eagles: Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State

The front office had to be shocked that Dillard was available this late and it was completely understandable why they moved up to go get him. Jason Peters' heir is secure and Dillard will provide much-needed depth as a rookie. While every organization high-fives themselves after the first round, the front office can do an extra fist pump with this pick.


Grade: A+


23. Houston Texans: Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State

The Texans have to be more than a little bummed the Eagles nipped them for Dillard. Howard has the same kind of upside but he’s not as ready to go right now as some others. Does he provide an upgrade for Deshaun Watson? Yes, and he might be even better down the road.


Grade: B-


24. Oakland Raiders: Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

There are a ton of good tailbacks available in the draft this year but little question that Jacobs was the top guy on most boards for his versatility in running the ball and contributing in the passing game. Glaring position of need for Oakland and Jacobs has the chance to put up some big numbers in Gruden’s system.


Grade: B+


25. Baltimore Ravens: Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma

Eric DeCosta hits a home run in his first-ever selection as GM, landing a dynamic talent that can stretch the field and an easy No. 1 option for Lamar Jackson. It was no surprise the team traded back in the first round while also landing their guy.


Grade: A+


26. Washington Redskins: Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State

Sweat was a Scouting Combine wonder but his medical issues dropped him toward the lower end of the first round. He is desperately needed in D.C. given the lack of pass rushers and the cost in moving back into the first round for a rare talent wasn’t bad at all. This is a draft worth celebrating for Washington fans in a way they haven’t had in ages.


Grade: A-


27. Oakland Raiders: Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State

A pick that Mike Mayock certainly loves because of Abram’s physicality and ability to patrol the box. The secondary badly needs some new faces in Oakland and Abram can solidify things on the back end.


Grade: B+


28. Los Angeles Chargers: Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame

The Chargers once again take a stellar talent on defense with great value at the end of the first round. While many thought offense was going to be the way to go with Philip Rivers still trying to win now, this makes that already great defensive line even better with the length and size that Tillery brings to the table.


Grade: B+


29. Seattle Seahawks: L.J. Collier, EDGE, TCU

No shock to see the Seahawks move around the board given their lack of picks and now they have their Frank Clark replacement along the line in Collier. He’s still a bit raw but the athletic upside is certainly there and his versatility is something that will be exploited by Pete Carroll’s defensive schemes. A bit of a reach, but a necessary one that also allows the team to add more players later.


Grade: B-


30. New York Giants: DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia

The Giants badly needed secondary help and go with the Thorpe Award winner as the first corner off the board. Baker can step in right away and we might look back a few years from now and think this was their best move of the first round.


Grade: A-


31. Atlanta Falcons: Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington

Think the Falcons wanted to upgrade their line? McGary is somebody who can really develop into a top-tier tackle but the team might have to live with some mistakes early on. He’s physical and fits with what the team wants to do but was overdrafted by a decent margin and not somebody they really had to go up and get with the picks they spent. Steep price paid to land a player that better work out in Atlanta.


Grade: C-


32. New England Patriots: N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State

Tom Brady needed a weapon on the outside in the biggest way and lands one in the undervalued Harry. He’ll provide an instant boost in the passing game with the way he competes for the ball in the air while also being a nice option on special teams.


Grade: A


— Written by Bryan Fischer, an award-winning college football columnist and member of the Athlon Contributor Network. You can follow him from coast-to-coast on Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat at @BryanDFischer.


(Photo courtesy of @Giants)

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