The 2019 NFL Draft weekend has come and gone, with so many teams improving with their newly acquired talent, which of course is the goal of the three-day event. Instead of naming winners and losers of the entire draft, or even handing out grades, I’m going to do something slightly different.
Here are the teams I thought drafted extremely well and did the best to address their needs.
Even though I’ve been hard on Josh Allen after a subpar rookie season, that doesn’t cloud my thoughts about Buffalo. I can recognize when a franchise has put together a good offseason, which the Bills have.
Earlier this offseason, I praised their free agent signings, all of which addressed putting weapons and protection around Allen. They entered the draft with the same purpose: Get more pieces to help Allen succeed.
After they selected Ed Oliver — who they absolutely couldn’t pass up — at No. 9, the Bills drafted Oklahoma offensive lineman Cody Ford. He’s a long-term solution at either tackle spot, or possibly guard. He’s physical and loves to finish. We saw last year how one player like this, Colts guard Quenton Nelson, can change the attitude of an entire offensive line.
The Bills also added speedy running back/slot receiver Devin Singletary from Florida Atlantic and multi-purpose tight end Dawson Knox. Knox averaged 18.9 yards per catch and can be a downfield threat for Allen, as well as excellent blocker in the run game.
The Eagles entered the draft with just a few holes and while they didn’t address linebacker (no one was available later in the first round), they did build around Carson Wentz. That’s not a bad thing.
Left tackle Jason Peters is back for 2019 in what will most likely be his final NFL season. Lane Johnson is firmly at right tackle and won’t be moved to left. Enter Andre Dillard from Washington State. Dillard was the best pass-blocking tackle in the draft, with a need to improve in the run game. The Eagles are a perfect fit for Dillard because they have outstanding offensive line coaches who will get the most from him. Dillard, while getting stronger and learning the finer points of run blocking, can sit behind Peters until the veteran retires.
The Eagles also drafted Stanford wide receiver JJ Arcega-Whiteside, a big-bodied 50-50 ball catcher. Arcega-Whiteside is a former all-state high school basketball player and it’s clear watching him on the field. He’s excellent at boxing out corners and high-point catching balls, especially in the red zone.
The reason I love this pick is what it can do for the offense. If teams want to double Zach Ertz, Arcega-Whiteside will be singled up. He will win those matchups with most corners in the NFL. If you want to see more of Arcega-Whiteside, here’s a decent highlight video.
I rightfully have bashed Arizona’s handling of Josh Rosen, but make no mistake, the Cardinals did work in the draft. They drafted the best quarterback in this class and then began to load up on players around him.
With the pick acquired in the Rosen trade, the Cardinals draft wide receiver Andy Isabella from UMass. According to Pro Football Focus, he was the highest-graded college WR in their database, which only dates back to 2014. Nonetheless, Isabella can fly and Kyler Murray can let it loose in his direction. The Cardinals also took Hakeem Butler, a big WR out of Iowa State, who can be another down-the-field weapon for Murray.
On the defensive side, the Cardinals added the most complete corner in the draft, Byron Murphy, with the first pick of the second day. Murphy is a shutdown corner who can tackle extremely well and will be awesome across from Patrick Peterson. Then there’s fifth-round Alabama safety Deionte Thompson, who is a hard-hitting box player.
What’s best about these picks, and most of the Cardinals’ picks, is the value. They got these players in positions of value, often close to a round later than expected.
The Saints had one glaring hole on their team. That was center, following the retirement of Max Unger. The Saints drafted Erik McCoy in the second round, as they didn’t have a first-round pick. McCoy is an immediate starter for them. He’s highly intelligent and an instinctual player who can handle any style of run play, which is exactly what the Saints do. They are extremely multiple in the run game.
But most importantly, he will quickly earn the trust of Drew Brees. Brees can look at McCoy to lead this unit and get them heading in the right direction before the snap.