From a pure and perfect ‘I like the Texans and want them to win football games in 2019’ perspective, the 2019 NFL Draft doesn’t yank my heart up and away like slipped out of hand parking lot coruscations. After a cautious free agency, a draft that can be characterized by a mutiny of words like: development, flashes, traits, potential, size, eventually, and a demonic 2019 schedule, wretched despondent feelings are normal to have, because, no, being drafted by the Houston Texans doesn’t automatically make one a better player. That’s all for a different time I suppose. Because there were things to enjoy about the 2019 NFL Draft, even if I wish I was puking in the desert, like I usually do, instead.
1.) All The Pretty Horses
The 2018 NFL season ended with a banal groan. One unforgettable play will be caught in my brain, a fleeting image, for the rest of the unknown amount of time I have at my disposal. Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski in double coverage to set up the game’s only touchdown in Super Bowl 53. It was pure and perfect even if it came from the villainous franchise that will never go away.
A regular season filled with electric games, no look throws, Big 12 shootouts, no tackling all offense football fell back to normalcy around the halfway mark of the season. Like the Super Bowl, this draft showed some of the same. Defense still exists. Stopping the quarterback is vital. And so in a draft loaded with defensive line talent, that may one day be the sequel to 2011, teams spent the first round snatching up as much defensive line talent as they could. Nick Bosa (2nd overall San Francisco), Quinnen Williams (3rd overall New York (J)), Clelin Ferrell (4th overall Oakland), Josh Allen (7th overall Jacksonville), Ed Oliver (9th overall Buffalo), Rashan Gary (12th overall Green Bay), Christian Wilkins (13th overall Miami), Brian Burns (16th overall Carolina), Dexter Lawrence (17th overall New York (G)), Jeffery Simmons (19th overall Tennessee), Montez Sweat (26th overall Washington), Jerry Tillery (28th overall Los Angeles (C)), and L.J. Collier (29th overall) were all selected in the first round. Yep. 13 of them.
Defenses maybe rattling and convulsing, but getting to the quarterback isn’t.
2.) Jacksonville’s First Two Rounds
Before all this offseason madness I didn’t think the Jaguars would draft a tackle in the first round. Jeremy Parnell, who for whatever reason is still unsigned, is a playable right tackle, and Cam Robinson, who is returning from ACL surgery, were expected to remain the team’s starting tackles in 2019. Then the Jags released Parnell to make room for Nick Foles, the main course to their offseason.
After this an abhorrent sore opened up and festered at the right tackle position. The assumption was the Jags would take a tackle in the first round to fill this need. I, like many, like the mock drafts, assumed it would be Florida’s Jawaan Taylor to fill this role. Edge rusher Josh Allen and tackle #1 Jonah Williams would both be selected before this point. Taylor is both an above average run and pass blocker and neutralized three first round picks at Florida, the trio of Burns, Allen, and Sweat all struggled to create pressure when lined up against Taylor.
Allen and Williams were both there surprisingly. The Jags took Allen to fill out their pass rush, a player who has the strength to bullrush even if he needs to work on an inside counter move to complement his tire screeching edge rushing. No longer will they need Taven Bryan to do something, anything, to rescue them from Malik Jackson’s departure. This season the Jags can bring Allen and the stretchy spidery Yannick Ngakoue off the edge, and Calias Campbell and Bryan on the interior. Sometimes things just work themselves out.
The tackle they were assumed to select in the first round was still there in the second round. The reasoning was Taylor had a raggedy knee. Since the draft those rumors have been squashed. Sometimes things just work themselves out. The Jags have their tackle situation taken care of with a nice bookend core, and could have an even better pass rush despite losing Jackson this offseason. The Jags had as good of a first two rounds as any team in this draft. This, plus improvement at the quarterback position, and offensive health, means the Jags could be back competing again in 2019.
3.) Pittsburgh’s Wide Receivers
Some teams are just good at certain things. Seattle is great at finding big offensive linemen who can’t pass block whatsoever, the Chiefs can always find offensive speed, the Pats always find value, whatever that means, the Vikings are a cornerback factory, and the Steelers know how to scout the wide receiver position. Listen to these wide receiver selections: Santonio Holmes (2006 Round One Pick #25, Mike Wallace (2009 Round Three Pick #86), Emmanuel Sanders (2010 Round Three Pick #82), Antonio Brown (2010 Round Six Pick #195), Markus Wheaton (2013 Round Three Pick #79), Martavis Bryant (2014 Round Four Pick #118), JuJu Smith-Schuster (2017 Round Two Pick #62), and James Washington (2018 Round Two Pick #60). Limas Sweed, a 2008 second round pick, and Sammie Coates, are the only ones who didn’t produce for the Steelers whatsoever.
After trading Antonio Brown they’ll need Smith-Schuster to continue to be absurd even now that the coverage will be rolled to him. The shifting of the spotlight. They need Washington to TITAN UP—I hope the draft is never in Nashville again—after a quiet rookie season. And the Steelers of course took a receiver in the second round of this draft.
The Steelers love dynamic receivers whose draft stock slips because they don’t have test tube solid snake genetically manipulated 6’6” 215 pound size. They found another yards after the catch scorcher in Dionte Johnson from Toledo. I’m just going to assume he ends up being great. This is the safe bet when it comes to the Steelers.
4.) The Packers’ Future Pass Rush
Last season the Packers’ pass rush was characterized by a collapsed pocket. Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark were brutal. Blake Martinez is a great blitzer. There were some rare out of nowhere Dean Lowry games. Their 3-4 edge rushers didn’t do much at all aside from Kyler Fackrell, who saw 6 of his 10.5 sacks come in 2 games against Buffalo and Seattle. Clay Matthews had 3.5 sacks and 12 quarterback hits, and Nick Perry had 1.5 sacks and 3 quarterback hits. The exterior pressure wasn’t there.
That should change this season. The Packers added Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith. Preston is a pure run the arc edge rusher. Za’Darius was a cog in Baltimore’s murderous defensive machine, and it will be fascinating to see how he plays when he’s an engine instead of a turning gear. And in the draft they took Rashan Gary, the all-world athlete who didn’t produce at Michigan.
Green Bay should rotate Gary and Lowry at one end position, start Daniels at nose tackle, Clark at the other defensive end position, both Smiths at outside linebacker, and Martinez and Oren Burks on the inside. Last season Green Bay finished tenth in adjusted sack rate and fourteenth in pressure rate. With the talent they added this offseason, and the shedding of that old hairy scab, this is a potential top five pass rush.
Now they just need a reinvigorated Aaron Rodgers to make up for his bare receiving group with fire breathing throws, and Matt LaFleur to prove he isn’t a fraud after leading a Tennessee offense that looked upon the exotic methmouth days with hearts full and glowing with him as the offensive coordinator.
5.) Best Player Available
Last offseason the Bengals attempted to make up for their ageism by trading for Cordy Glenn. The year before they opted not to retain Andrew Whitworth as their left tackle, and allowed Cedric Ogbuehi to take the reigns and tear their pass protection apart. They also signed Bobby Hart last offseason to start at right tackle, and resigned him for three additional seasons even after a crappy 2018.
Hart is just 24. Glenn, who is competent, is 29 years old. After recently resigning Hart and Glenn being under contract until 2021, it was unexpected for the Bengals to draft a tackle. Then Jonah Williams fell to them. They stood strong and took the best player available, who also happened to be the best offensive tackle in this class.
Williams has the tackle position mastered from a technique stand point and should be able to play both right and left. The Bengals could start Williams at right, let Hart swing it, and can get out of his contract after this season by swallowing only $2 million in dead money next year, and eventually move Williams to left once Glenn’s days are done. Additionally, Andy Dalton has shown before he’s good enough when he has the pass protection in front of him. Williams will fix their leakiest spot on the line of scrimmage, and the Bengals’ passing offense should be really good as long as A.J. Green is healthy.
6.) Sordid Hipsters
Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden have combined to make it their goal to be more original than you, cooler than you, more clever than you, and more interesting than you. With three first round picks they took Ferrell, a selection that shocked the draft nerds, a running back, when the lamestream doesn’t take running backs in the first round anymore, especially slower ones, and a big hitting safety.
They saw them at a dive back in 2011 before they made it, and their shows just aren’t the same anymore. You know, Sartoris is actually Faulkner’s best work. Mudhoney is better than Nirvana. Chilean neo-noir has changed how they see the world. And they of course took a monstrous athletic marvel edge rusher no one has ever heard of before.
The ESPN telecast was bizarre. Everyone had a child. Everyone had a parent, or an uncle, or a grandparent that had died. And everytime one of the young men was selected Suzy Kolber made sure to stick a microphone in their face and remind them of past tragedy. Damn Suzy that was thirteen years ago. The past is dead. Bury the clock in a mausoleum. Shove your fingers in your ears once the ticking encroaches on your consciousness. The draft is about the future, the celebration of now, and isn’t the time to remember the dead.
The best part of the draft isn’t the falling in love with a player’s game and the imagination that one day he’ll end up on your favorite team, because these things never happen, it’s the unabashed joy and celebration when the selection is made. I can’t get enough of the phone calls. The blood curling ‘Let’s Go’ that could open the Earth and swallow the swine of Eubuleus, the hugging of loved ones, the immediate change of life, and these big strong postmodern folk legends who are too tough to cry with salt streaming from their eyes.
8.) Fire The Cannons Or Something
You can enjoy something that isn’t good. I loved watching the 2018 Arizona Cardinals. Patrick Peterson is still one of the league’s best corners, Chandler Jones is the world’s greatest guitar player, the blitzing was joyous in a timid zone coverage league, hilariously inefficient David Johnson box scores, and Josh Rosen even squeaking out one great downfield throw behind that offensive line was spectacular.
This season I’m all in on being a Bucs fan. I missed Bruce Arians’s vertical offense. I love the deep ball. Throw it downfield. Don’t be a coward. Good things usually happen. For all of Jameis’s issues, the one thing he has shown the ability to do is throw the ball deep. It’s his last chance to start now that he’s in his fifth year, and it’s the perfect offense for him to play in, and maybe the only offense. The Bucs also have a wide receiver core of death who can switch everything, sorry wrong sport, this is what happens when you listen to the Zach Lowe podcast, that includes 6’5” Mike Evans, a 6’1” 205 pound slot receiver in Chris Godwin, 6’3” Breshad Perriman, and O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate. Close your eyes. Heave it deep. Don’t die in your hometown.
The problem with the Bucs is the defense is atrocious. Their 2016 defense was saved by turnovers. In 2017 they finished 32nd in defensive DVOA. And last season, you guessed it, they finished 32nd in defensive DVOA. Up against the salary cap they had to resort to the draft to improve their defense. They selected a defensive player with their first five picks: Devin White (LB), Sean Bunting (CB), Jamel Dean (CB), Mike Edwards (S), and Anthony Nelson (Edge). Oh, and they also took a kicker in the fifth round. Never change Tampa.
Most spend their springs starving and sweating to get in shape to stave off that self inflicted misery, sharp stabs of regret, once the summertime rips that shirt right off. Not me. I’m doing the opposite. I’m putting on 115 pounds, exchanging my dress shirts for Tommy Bahama floral, eating nothing but steak and cigars, and taking the boat out every time the opportunity comes stumbling through the door. The dishes can wait. There’s life to savor out on the bay.
Hopefully the defensive picks come together and the Bucs harvest the luck that comes with defensive variance. If it does, it will make the Bucs that much more enjoyable this season.
9.) Circumventing Russell Wilson
The Seahawks have built their team around a simple premise. Russell Wilson is really good and makes up for the deficiencies they have on offense. Who needs pass protection, who needs to spend big on an offensive line, when he’s slipping and slithering around out of tackles and heaving it off the glorious edge of this flat Earth. That premise has been stretched to its limit now though. Wilson is no longer accounting for $14 million of Seattle’s cap, but $26 million, $31 million, $32 million, and eventually, quite possibly even $37 million.
Instead of paying Frank Clark the Seahawks traded him to Kansas City to acquire a 2019 first round pick and a 2020 second round pick. They also traded down so they could snag as many cost effective players as possible. Before the Clark trade the Seahawks had four draft picks. After the draft they had made eleven selections.
Having a quarterback is the most important component of building a NFL team. It’s not without its trials though. That much cap space devoted to one player means that player has to make up for others, and decisions like Seattle made this weekend have to be made in an attempt to build a complete roster. Second contracts will rarely be given out in Seattle in this jumbo Wilson contract era.
10.) Mr. McGary
I love Kaleb McGary. He’s the best run blocking tackle in this class, and because of the footwork he displays in the run game, I think his pass block turning can be corrected in the NFL. I’m in the minority here. Most see short arms, and quick turning, and miss out on the perfect outside zone steps, feel to stay or move to the second level, and incredible second level blocking.
The Falcons love McGary too. They traded up into the first round to make him the fourth tackle selected in this class. He’s going to be perfect there. In Atlanta he can keep on outside zone blocking, and with Matt Ryan at quarterback, he will be protecting for someone who gets the ball out quickly and understands how to operate in the pocket when edge rushers come on around. Additionally, the Falcons love play action, and McGary has an awesome aggressive pass set that will fit perfectly here.
During the spring and summer I hope football never comes around again. For it means the end of that bright big burning sun, the one that’s large and voluminous and full, like the one on Rasheed Wallace’s right arm, and the return of haunting breezes and crunching leaves that makes me wish for the passing of time, for all of that to end, so it can be this time again. This year, among other things, I’ll at least have Kaleb McGary run blocking to look forward to.
Oh, and I’m glad the Texans took two cornerbacks last weekend.