In a Draft where many thought surprises and drama would be commonplace, it was a relatively stable affair. With no trades until pick 13, when Tampa Bay Buccaneers moved up one spot to get Offensive Tackle Tristan Wirfs. Here’s how Round 1 of the Draft unfolded.
Quarterbacks Don’t Slide
In what was one of the worst-kept secrets, Cincinnati Bengals took Quarterback Joe Burrow first overall. Despite receiving trade offers, Bengals weren’t risking giving up their chance at a franchise QB. Burrow’s selection was essentially a no-brainer.
But also going in the top ten were Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert, to Miami Dolphins and Los Angeles Chargers, respectively. Some thought Tagovailoa would slide due to injury concerns, and that it would be enough to deter Miami from drafting him. Instead, without having to trade up, and through a large number of rumors and smokescreens, Miami got the guy everyone thought they would a year ago. That left Herbert for the Chargers, who also misled many by indicating they would take an Offensive Linemen.
Top Ten as Expected
With no trades happening, the rest of the top ten picks were pretty much forecast months ago. Defensive End Chase Young went to Washington Redskins, Cornerback Jeffrey Okudah went to Detroit Lions, and New York Giants took an Offensive Tackle in Andrew Thomas. While it was a mild surprise that Thomas was the OT taken by the Giants, the position wasn’t raising any eyebrows.
At seventh overall, the Carolina Panthers bolstered their defensive front with Defensive Tackle Derrick Brown. That left Linebacker Isaiah Simmons to the Arizona Cardinals at eight, and OT Jedrick Wills to the Cleveland Browns at ten. What was perhaps the biggest surprise of the top ten was that Jacksonville Jaguars took CB CJ Henderson. Although the Jaguars taking a CB early in the draft wasn’t unprecedented, Henderson was perhaps a slight reach going that early.
Wide Receiver Run
Pre-Draft, there was a lot of speculation that there would be a run at the Wide Receiver position in the early teens. Instead, the first WR wasn’t taken until the twelfth pick, where Las Vegas Raiders took Henry Ruggs III, who was seen as one of the top WRs in the Draft, but not necessarily the best at the position. Fellow Alabama WR Jerry Jeudy was the next WR taken, a few picks later at fifteen overall by the Denver Broncos. Instead of a tight cluster of the top three WRs, the third of the group, WR CeeDee Lamb didn’t go until the seventeenth pick to the Dallas Cowboys. With a strong WR class, it would appear many of the teams drafting early felt comfortable waiting on a WR until later in the Draft.
The WR4 for most people, Justin Jefferson, went at twenty-two to Minnesota Vikings. The Philadelphia Eagles, who were a popular choice to take a WR, took Jalen Reagor at twenty-one overall. San Francisco 49ers traded up from thirty-one overall to twenty-five overall so they could select WR Brandon Aiyuk.
Offensive Tackle Value Up
The first and only trade in the top twenty picks was by Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who ensured they didn’t miss their OT by drafting Tristan Wirfs. Their hand was forced by the New York Jets, who selected OT Mekhi Becton, leaving just one of the top OTs left for the Bucs. From their trade down with Tampa Bay, San Francisco 49ers also managed to replace DT DeForest Buckner by drafting DT Javon Kinlaw.
But teams weren’t done taking offensive tackles. With their second pick in the first round, Miami Dolphins drafted OT Austin Jackson at eighteenth overall. We then saw the Tennessee Titans take Isaiah Wilson at twenty-nine, hoping he replaces Jack Conklin sooner rather than later.
Reaching for Cornerbacks
While the Jaguars‘ selection of Henderson was perhaps a slight reach, it was at least in range of where he was projected to go. Instead, two more CBs were taken in the top twenty picks, both a lot higher than expected. Atlanta Falcons drafted AJ Terrell at sixteen overall, while Las Vegas took Damon Arnette at nineteen.
Miami’s selection of CB Noah Igbinoghene was far from a reach but just reinforced how teams weren’t risking missing out on CBs, even if it meant taking them early. Another CB went in Jeff Gladney to Minnesota Vikings at thirty-one. Teams who need a CB and didn’t take one now have to consider reaching for them over Days 2 and 3.
Jacksonville Jaguars doubled down on defense by selecting Edge rusher K’Lavon Chaisson, giving them a strong pairing with last year’s first-rounder, Josh Allen. The Los Angeles Chargers traded back into the first, selecting LB Kenneth Murray, giving up a second and third-round pick to New England Patriots to do so. New Orleans Saints kept their interior Offensive Line strong with Center Cesar Ruiz at twenty-four overall, although he likely slides to Offensive Guard.
QB Jordan Love was always a mystery for where he would land, and his slide finished as Green Bay Packers moved up to twenty-sixth overall to draft him. LB Jordyn Brooks went to Seattle Seahawks at twenty-seven overall, and Baltimore Ravens made it back to back LBs by selecting Patrick Queen. The Draft closed out Round 1 with Kansas City Chiefs taking Running Back Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
Winners and Losers from Round 1
Miami Dolphins landing QB Tua Tagovailoa without trading up, and acquiring two extra first-rounders in the process is a great reward for a dismal 2019 season. Their rebuild is firmly underway, even if OT Austin Jackson went slightly early and isn’t ready to start immediately. Throw in more Draft capital with their trade down with Green Bay, and then their pick of CB Noah Igbinoghene, and Miami had a great Day 1.
A handful of teams were fortunate with how the Draft fell and got players that are perfect for their systems. Dallas Cowboys wouldn’t have expected WR CeeDee Lamb to be available at seventeen and lucked out by landing him. Similarly, Baltimore Ravens, a team defined by their LBs such as Ray Lewis and CJ Mosley, got one of the best available in Patrick Queen.
CBs, in general, were large winners as they generally went higher than projected. Similarly, WRs and OL would feel good, as they also got pushed up Draft boards as teams scrambled to avoid missing out. WRs, in particular, earned their reputation as one of the best classes at the position ever, as six were taken in the top twenty-five picks.
Although it’s always a bit presumptive to label a team’s Draft as poor before the players hit the field, Las Vegas General Manager Mike Mayock raised eyebrows with both of his selections. WR Henry Ruggs III was generally viewed as the third-best at the position, and a report coming out 48 hours before the Draft began suggested WR Justin Jefferson had potentially gained ground on him. Then, taking CB Damon Arnette was also shocking to most. While Arnette was a fringe Round 1 player, taking him this early is questionable. Arnette can break on the ball well and is a good tackler with high awareness, but he needs to reward the Raiders with exceptional play now.
San Francisco 49ers also could have done better and gave up quite a bit in the process. Landing Kinlaw as a replacement for Buckner is good but isn’t an upgrade. Aiyuk was a great pick for them, but the amount they gave up to move up for a WR in a deep class is excessive. Aiyuk will have some pressure on him immediately.
New Orleans Saints taking Cesar Ruiz was perhaps a wasted pick, given they are in a Super Bowl window, and last year’s pick Erik McCoy is established at Center. Instead of loading up at WR, addressing LB or CB, the Saints used their first-rounder on a position where they were already very strong. Likewise, Green Bay’s QB Aaron Rodgers can’t be too happy as his replacement was drafted, while he also didn’t get any help at WR, which he desperately needed.