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2019 NFL mock draft: Defense will dominate the 1st round

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Teams will get new quarterbacks, but defenders will own the first round.

NFL: NFL Draft Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Bowl season is well underway in college football, and the NFL season is down to its final weeks. That all means we’re getting closer and closer to the 2019 NFL Draft.

This year’s draft is packed with defensive line talent and that’s reflected in this week’s mock draft. Nearly half of the picks in this first round scenario are players up front on defense.

That’s a far cry from last year when four of the first 10 picks in the draft were quarterbacks, and five were picked in the first round. In this mock, three quarterbacks are taken in the first round with two in the top 10. Those two are Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State and Justin Herbert of Oregon. Of course, that’s with the assumption that both will go pro. If they don’t, mock drafts will change dramatically over the next few weeks. For now, here’s one way the 2019 NFL Draft could play out:

1. Arizona Cardinals: Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Although much of Arizona’s offseason should be dedicated to building around quarterback Josh Rosen, it will be hard to pass up a pass rusher like Bosa. He missed most of the 2018 season after suffering an abdominal injury but he should be ready to for rookie minicamp after the draft.

2. Oakland Raiders: Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

If Bosa is 1a in this draft then Williams is 1b. He exploded on the NFL radar in his redshirt sophomore season thanks to his ability to create pressure up the middle with power and a good first step. The Raiders’ defense needs playmakers, and Williams is the best one in the draft after Bosa.

3. New York Jets: Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama

The Jets are another team that should dedicate the offseason to building around a young quarterback. Williams is arguably the best offensive tackle in the draft, and would give Sam Darnold a player who can protect his blindside. If not an offensive lineman, the Jets would be smart to consider Kentucky pass rusher Josh Allen.

4. San Francisco 49ers: Josh Allen, OLB/DE, Kentucky

Allen surprised some by returning to Kentucky for another season, but it paid off for him. He rounded out his game and asserted himself as a likely top 10 pick in April. For the 49ers he would give them a versatile pass rusher who can attack from different positions. If the 49ers can’t get Bosa, Allen should be their first priority.

5. Jacksonville Jaguars: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

As the college football season progressed, Haskins asserted himself as the best draft-eligible quarterback prospect in the nation. He’s not regarded as highly as the quarterbacks in the last couple of drafts, but he showed in his redshirt sophomore season that he possesses and NFL arm and size.

6. Atlanta Falcons: Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

Don’t let the narrative about Oliver fool you: He’s still damn good. There was really nothing to motivate Oliver to play this season, and he was banged up early in the year. Even in a down year, Oliver was named an All-American by multiple outlets and was consistently double and triple teamed by opposing teams. He’s not an Aaron Donald-type of pass rusher—no one is, frankly—but he’s disruptive and physical.

7. Detroit Lions: Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

It’s clear the Lions need to add playmakers on defense. They’ll be keen on getting a pass rusher, especially if Ezekiel Ansah leaves in the offseason. Still, Williams is too good of a player to pass up. The LSU cornerback is arguably one of the five best players in the draft.

8. New York Giants: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon

If the Giants finish behind the Jaguars in the draft order, they’ll closely be waiting on Herbert’s pro decision. Herbert has until Jan. 14 to decide whether or not he’ll return to Oregon, but most rumors have centered around him returning. If he goes back to school, the Giants might seriously have to consider a trade up to finally get their quarterback of the future, even if Eli Manning is back in 2019.

9. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss

Tampa Bay is a hard team to figure out this early in the draft process. Head coach Dirk Koetter could be gone, and the future of quarterback Jameis Winston is uncertain. Left tackle Donovan Smith and linebacker Kwon Alexander are free agents. If both depart, replacing Smith is the greater priority.

10. Buffalo Bills: Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan

For the Bills, Gary is a player who can line up on the outside and on the inside. The former No. 1 overall high school recruit was banged up for much of this season, but when he’s healthy he can make an impact.

11. Green Bay Packers: Montez Sweat, DE/OLB, Mississippi State

Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine has schemed Green Bay into being a team that is near the top of the NFL in sacks. However, the Packers have needed a pass rusher for several seasons and longtime stalwart Clay Matthews is a free agent. Someone like Sweat can be used standing up on the edge or with his hand down.

12. Denver Broncos: Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

Bradley Roby has been a bit of a disappointment for Denver after being taken in the first round in 2014. There are several good first round cornerback options in this draft, and Murphy is among them. He’s a playmaker with impressive ball skills.

13. Cincinnati Bengals: Devin White, LB, LSU

The Bengals haven’t taken a linebacker in the first two rounds of the draft since Ray Maualuga in 2009 and it shows. The Bengals for too long have relied on Vontaze Burfict and now could be the time to move on from the troubled linebacker.

14. Carolina Panthers: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

Julius Peppers’ hall of fame career is just about at an end, and the Panthers can find a new edge rusher in the first round. Ferrell had another outstanding season with 17 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks and would give Carolina a dependable end who does everything well.

15. Cleveland Browns: Cody Ford, OT, Oklahoma

Picking in the teens is foreign territory for the Browns, but they’ll still find some starter-level players at this point in the first round. Ford just finished his first season as the full-time starter at left tackle for Oklahoma and he played well. He’s a mauling blocker who is still improving as a pass blocker.

16. Miami Dolphins: Drew Lock, QB, Missouri

Here’s the curveball of this mock draft, and it’s dependent on a few things happening. First, it would mean the Dolphins are moving on from Ryan Tannehill. He’s been an average quarterback for Miami, so it’s possible. The second thing that needs to happen is Lock acing the draft process, beginning with the Senior Bowl in a few weeks.

17. Washington: D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

If three quarterbacks are taken before Washington is on the clock, the team may not be willing to gamble on the fourth quarterback. Alabama linebacker Mack Wilson makes some sense to help the defense, and Washington loves Crimson Tide players. But the offense is low on playmakers. Metcalf is the draft’s top wide receiver and can be a No. 1 target for whoever is throwing him the ball.

18. Philadelphia Eagles: Jachai Polite, Edge, Florida

Michael Bennett and Chris Long are both 33 and nearing the end of their careers and Brandon Graham is a free agent so pass rusher looks like an offseason need for Philadelphia. Polite is a pass rush specialist who had a breakout season at Florida with 11 sacks.

19. Indianapolis Colts: Brian Burns, Edge, Florida State

The Colts took a guard in Quenton Nelson in the first round in 2018 instead of a pass rusher, and that’s working out well. But Indianapolis desperately needs to find a pass rusher in the offseason. Burns projects as a possible top 20 player in April thanks to his athleticism and ability to dip around the edge.

20. Tennessee Titans: Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State

A pass rusher or a wide receiver could be argued here, but the Titans absolutely have to figure out if Marcus Mariota is their franchise quarterback next season. They can’t do that with average offensive line play. Risner is capable of playing tackle or on the inside.

21. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Sheldon Richardson is a free agent after the season, so the Vikings could look to add an interior defensive lineman who can create pressure up the middle. Wilkins is an electric defensive lineman who knows how to split gaps and create pressure.

22. Oakland Raiders (via Dallas Cowboys): DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia

Plainly stated, the Raiders need talent at cornerback. Baker is the type of experienced college cornerback who can come in immediately and start and make an impact for Oakland.

23. Seattle Seahawks: Jeffrey Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

In any other draft, Simmons would easily be picked in the teens. But considering how loaded the draft is on the defensive line, a team like Seattle could benefit from a player like Simmons sliding down.

24. Baltimore Ravens: N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State

Under Lamar Jackson, Baltimore is a run-heavy team. That may be partially due to the team lacking a true lead receiver. Harry is a big body wide out who can make dynamic catches and open up Baltimore’s offense.

25. Pittsburgh Steelers: Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama

With Ryan Shazier’s football future still unknown, it’s clear the Steelers need to add athleticism at linebacker. Wilson isn’t a freaky athlete like Shazier, but he moves around well and is a three-down linebacker.

26. New England Patriots: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

There has been speculation that this could be the final year for Rob Gronkowski in New England. If that’s the case, finding his replacement should be the Patriots’ top offseason priority. Hockenson isn’t quite the size/athleticism combination Gronkowski—no one is—but he’s similar in that he can block, catch the ball well and get yards after the catch.

27. Oakland Raiders (via Chicago Bears): Zach Allen, DE, Boston College

Taking three players on defense in the first round would automatically kickstart Oakland’s defense. Allen is the last first-round edge rusher available, and he’s the type of end who works the run and pass. He could rise higher than this spot over the next few months.

28. Houston Texans: Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida

No team in the NFL has given up more sacks this season than the Texans, so offensive line is an area that needs to be addressed. Taylor has mostly played right tackle at Florida, but he’s started a couple games on the left side. He’s a player Houston could bring in and figure out where he fits best to help protect Deshaun Watson.

29. Los Angeles Rams: Derrick Brown, DT, Auburn

Ndamukong Suh is set to become a free agent, and that leaves the Rams needing a new partner next to Aaron Donald. Brown is a powerhouse defensive tackle who will help keep blockers off Donald.

30. Los Angeles Chargers: Gerald Willis, DT, Miami

With several question marks on the interior defensive line, the Chargers could retool this offseason. Willis has some off-field questions but he bolstered his draft stock this season as much as any player.

31. Kansas City Chiefs: Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama

Kansas City would be smart to pursue secondary help this offseason, and that could come with their first pick in the draft. Thompson is a rangy safety, and he’s more than willing to come up and and hit someone.

32. Green Bay Packers (via New Orleans Saints): Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Two tight ends from the same school in the first round? It’s possible if Hockenson ends up joining Fant in declaring for the draft. Fant, who has already declared, is an exceptional pass catcher who knows how to work the seam.