The NFL Draft is right around the corner, and everyone is gearing up to be wholly disappointed with what their team does in the first round and beyond. By now, you’ve probably absorbed more mock drafts than you could ever possibly remember, and if you’re really serious about your draft prep, you’ve been doing some film review of your own.
And, of course, you probably have a draft crush.
The draft crush is one of our favorite aspects of pre-draft buildup. Actually, it might be the only aspect of the pre-draft buildup that’s any fun. It’s an exercise in frustration, but it’s fun having someone specific beyond the biggest names to root for on draft day(s).
They never work out because your favorite team never gets the guy — what are the odds that one of 32 teams will pick the player you like the most and desperately want them to pick? Pretty slim, probably, but we’re not doing the math and you can’t make us.
What you can do, though, is tell us about who you’ve been crushing on. Here are our picks.
Joejuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt
Not only is Williams a shutdown cornerback who stands 6’4 and runs a 4.5-second 40-yard dash, but he’s also a guy who proudly picked Vanderbilt against overtures from the University of Tennessee and then proceeded to beat the Volunteers each year he played in Nashville. It was truly a thing of beauty to watch the lowest level of UT fan turn against Williams after he declared his intention to play for the SEC’s only private school instead of its most delusional fanbase. It was even better to see him stomp out the Vols — by a combined score of 125 to 71! — for the past three seasons.
Williams declared for the 2019 draft with some first-round buzz, but the numbers haven’t been kind to him in the run up to this year’s event. He finished his NCAA career with only four interceptions because opponents rarely threw at him. His stock dropped after an average combine showing, then didn’t really rebound even after a significantly better performance at Vandy’s pro day.
But Williams had as many interceptions his senior season as Richard Sherman did with the same coach (Derek Mason) guiding his way, is both bigger and faster than Sherman was when he made the leap to the NFL, and may wind up similarly undervalued.
Am I saying Williams is going to be as good as Richard Sherman as a pro?
Yes. Yes I am.
— Christian D’Andrea
JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford
It was pretty shocking to me when JJ Arcega-Whiteside measured in at 6’2 even at the NFL Combine. As a fan of Pac-12 football who watched a fair amount of Stanford football over the last few years, I would’ve swore the guy was at least 6’4.
If you’ve ever heard the trope that a player “plays big,” good luck finding someone who typifies it more than Arcega-Whiteside. Both of his parents were high-level basketball players and it shows by the way he plays football. According to Pro Football Focus, Arcega-Whiteside caught 19 contested catches in 2018 — nine more than any of the other top receivers in the 2019 NFL Draft class.
When Stanford really needed someone to make a play, they often just let Arcega-Whiteside go up and take the ball away from defenders.
On top of the fact he flat-out bullied just about everyone across from him, he also ran a 4.50 40-yard dash — a more than respectable time for a player his size. He has the requisite explosiveness and speed to get open so that he doesn’t have to win contested catches all the time. But it’s a damn good trump card to have in your back pocket.
You need a receiver to make a big play in a big moment? Go draft Arcega-Whiteside.
— Adam Stites
Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State
Forget for a second that McLaurin is one of the fastest, most efficient receivers in the draft (according to Bill Connelly, McLaurin rates second in marginal efficiency).
Or that he averaged 20 yards per catch in 2018.
Or that he was a two-time captain at Ohio State who was coaching up fellow draft prospects at the Senior Bowl.
Or that Doug Baldwin tweeted this last month:
Terry McLaurin. WR, Ohio State.— Doug Baldwin Jr (@DougBaldwinJr) March 20, 2019
Remember that name.
Instead, LOOK AT THIS F***ING PUNT COVERAGE:
Congrats on whoever drafts McLaurin. You’re going to love him.
— Sarah Hardy
Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
Guys this big (6’4, 345) should not move like Lawrence does. It’s just not normal. And that’s not an ostarine joke. I’ve followed him since he was a recruit at Wake Forest (NC) High. When he is right, his size/speed combo is just overwhelming to defenders. And I think he has a level he can get to that could resemble Albert Haynesworth — one of the most dominant defensive forces the NFL has seen.
While the potential bust factor with huge defensive tackles is high, I’d love to bet on the upside with Lawrence in the first round.
— Bud Elliott
Benny Snell, RB, Kentucky
Not only was he the engine behind the Wildcats’ successful rebranding as a 1920s offense, he is also this draft class’ best animal mascot Photoshopper, as vanquished SEC rivals discovered.
— Jason Kirk
WATCH HOW YOU SPEAK ON OUR NAME. pic.twitter.com/LGPzTEFdoT— Mr SNELL YA LATER (@benny_snell) September 9, 2018
I SPEAK FACTS. #bbn pic.twitter.com/tpI62Yks7i— Mr SNELL YA LATER (@benny_snell) September 23, 2018
Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
Wilkins an absolutely dominating defensive tackle — he makes tossing aside a center for a strip fumble and near-sack look this easy:
But what makes Wilkins my draft crush is how damn fun he is. After his team won 2016’s College Football Playoff National Championship over Alabama, he stole the show during the Tigers’ trophy ceremony when he did a glorious split in the middle of the confetti:
And look at this flexibility!
And just stuff like this is what makes him the best:
Really debating making this my new Twitter photo. pic.twitter.com/H8e0ISp8o8— David Ubben (@davidubben) November 20, 2016
Trevon Wesco, TE, West Virginia
I’m always on the lookout for a versatile player with the capability to rise above only being known for said versatility. I think there are a few players who fit that bill this year, and I can’t escape this without also mentioning New Mexico State linebacker Terrill Hanks. Now that I’ve officially cheated on the spirit of this post and named two players, how about the guy I’m actually crushing on?
West Virginia tight end Trevon Wesco can do it all, but he can do it all really, really well. He played all over the offensive formation in the Senior Bowl, and has the skillset to be more than a Swiss Army knife-type player. He can do all the things a modern NFL tight end is expected to do, and can also make things happen out of the backfield.
At 6’3 and 267 pounds, he’s got the right build for it, too. He doesn’t have stats that will blow you away, but he always seems to make his biggest plays in the biggest moments.
— James Brady
Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
Have you seen Oliver play?
The stuff he’s capable of doing on the football just doesn’t make sense. He showed off his otherworldly athleticism at his pro day, had insane production in college, and will be moving to a position that better suits his talents in the NFL.
Oliver was miscast as a nose tackle in Houston’s defense where he saw a ton of double- and triple-teams. In the NFL, he’ll be able to play three-technique (lined up on the outside shoulder of the offensive guard) where he won’t see many double-teams at all. That means that a defensive tackle who runs a 4.7 will consistently be matched up with offensive guards that don’t have his quickness and athleticism.
The scariest part about Oliver? He can still get a lot better. He can still improve his hand technique and his consistency as a pass rusher. Once the technique matches his athleticism, he should be one of the best defensive players in the NFL.
— Charles McDonald