With the 2019 NFL Draft season now underway, here's my initial look at the top five prospects at each position.
The 2019 quarterback class hasn't generated the buzz of last year's prospects at the position, but there are plenty of franchise quarterback candidates and future starters in the group. Haskins is a five-star player with the arm talent, IQ and pocket-passing skills to set the NFL world on fire. Despite having only one year of starting experience, the Ohio State standout flashes the maturity to be a QB1 from Day 1. Murray is an electric playmaker with A-plus arm talent and athleticism. He dazzles as a runner but is at his best delivering darts from the pocket. If teams can get comfortable with his sub-standard physical dimensions (5-foot-10, 195 pounds), they could fall in love with the Russell Wilson-like playmaker from Oklahoma. Lock is an ultra-talented passer with a high-level basketball background that's shaped his athleticism and movement skills. He can make every throw in the book to any area of the field, although accuracy has been an issue for him (career completion percentage of 56.9); he needs to learn how to take what's given to him and play as a "manager" to be an elite starter in the league. Jones checks off most of the boxes as a QB1. He's a big, athletic playmaker with a high IQ and nimble feet. Although Jones is not an A-plus arm talent, he spins the ball well and has a feel for connecting the dots as a passer.
The running back position is en vogue once more after a few young runners stepped into the spotlight as first-year starters. The 2019 class lacks star power, but there are plenty of solid starters dotting this list. Jacobs is the leader of the pack as a dynamic runner with Alvin Kamara-like explosiveness. Despite a limited resume, NFL scouts are smitten with his potential as a shifty runner with a running style that delicately mixes power with finesse. Singletary is an electric jitterbug with exceptional stop-start quickness. He routinely makes defenders miss in the hole with Houdini-like moves, but he also flashes enough pop to run through tackles in traffic. Harris isn't flashy, but he's a dependable workhorse capable of grinding out the tough yards between the tackles. He lacks elite traits in any area, but his solid production and performance is intriguing for a team in need of an RB2. Love's injury-plagued senior season led to his slide down the charts, but his exceptional production in 2017 could prompt a team to rekindle its love affair with the combination of speed, quickness and burst he displayed as a straight-line runner.
The 2019 wide receiver class is loaded with big-bodied pass catchers who possess spectacular ball skills. Marquise Brown is a bit of an outlier from his fellow WR prospects as a slender playmaker with home-run potential. The 5-foot-10, 160-pounder is a DeSean Jackson-like deep threat with speed to burn. (UPDATE: After these rankings were published, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Brown had Lisfranc surgery last month and won't participate in the combine or Oklahoma's pro day.) Harry is a rugged "chain mover" with outstanding hands, ball skills and acrobatic footwork. He looks like a WR1 when he steps onto the field, despite concerns about his speed. A.J. Brown is a rugged pass catcher with outstanding hands and ball skills. He routinely plucks the ball off the heads of defenders on vertical routes down the boundary. Questions about his speed might torpedo his stock, but the Ole Miss standout looks like a natural WR1 with the size and strength to dominate smallish corners. Ridley is a dependable pass catcher with strong hands and precise route-running ability.
More and more teams are turning to the Y position (attached tight end) to create mismatches in the passing game. The 2019 class features a number of Y tight ends, but scouts could also find a difference maker at the H (pass-catching tight end) position. Hockenson is a throwback player with the size, strength and power to overwhelm defenders in the running game while also dazzling as a pass catcher down the seams. He's a traditional tight end prospect who evokes images of former Giant Mark Bavaro in his prime. Fant is an explosive athlete with the size and length to create mismatches on the perimeter. The 6-foot-5, 241-pounder plays like a "Jumbo" wide receiver but needs to show a little more nastiness in the running game as a blocker to be a Y in most offenses. Nauta flew under the radar for most of the season, but the Georgia tight end is a natural pass catcher with a refined set of skills as a route runner.
The offensive tackle position remains one of the marquee spots on the roster, with the league shifting toward a pass-first premise. The 2019 offensive tackle class offers a lot of options at the top of the board, with playing-style preference likely chaining the order in draft rooms around the league. Taylor is a "people mover" with excellent strength, power and athleticism. He is capable of climbing to the second level on combo blocks and uses that same athleticism to snuff out pass rushers on the edge. Williams is a technician with the combination of balance, body control and hand skills to emerge as a perennial Pro Bowler on the edge. He moves defenders off the ball in the running game while also flashing the athleticism and strength to build a wall around the quarterback in pass protection. Dillard is arguably the best pass protector in the class, with quick feet and a refined game. He neutralizes pass rushers with a variety of quick-set maneuvers and kick-slide techniques that are advanced for this stage of his career. Although he needs some work as a run blocker, Dillard's strengths in pass protection could vault him up the charts.
Interior blockers are frequently treated as second-class citizens in the draft process, but the immediate impact of Quenton Nelson (who was picked sixth overall by the Colts last year, then earned Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors as part of Indy's rebuilt O-line) has teams looking for dominant trench players in the 2019 class. Bradbury leads the group as a high-IQ player with outstanding blocking skills. The former N.C. State star displays excellent agility climbing to the second level but also flashes enough pop to move defenders off the ball. As a great communicator, he makes all of the checks and adjustments at the line. McGovern is a scrappy player at the point of attack with adequate movement skills and athleticism. He lacks the strength to blow defenders off the ball, but he fights to the finish and creates seams with body positioning.
Disruptive defensive tackles are coveted at a premium in the league. The 2019 class is loaded with interior defenders who possess outstanding run-stopping skills and pass-rush ability. Williams is the crown jewel of the class as a big, athletic interior defender with a non-stop motor and a nasty streak. He overwhelms blockers at the point of attack with his explosive quickness and power. Wilkins is arguably the most versatile defensive lineman in the draft, with a set of skills that enables him to align anywhere from nose tackle to defensive end. With his versatility and athleticism at 300-plus pounds, the Clemson standout should soar up the charts when defensive coaches begin to ponder the possibilities. Simmons' recent ACL injury will torpedo his draft stock, but astute coaches will keep his disruptive game in mind and focus on how he could impact a unit when he returns from his injury. He's so talented that he's still the No. 2 DT in the draft, even though his availability for the 2019 season is in doubt.
The 2019 class has a number of quarterback hunters with the right combination of athleticism, strength and skill to become double-digit sack producers early in their respective careers. Bosa is ahead of the game as a refined rusher with a diverse repertoire of moves. The Ohio State star can win with finesse or power while exhibiting exceptional hand-to-hand combat skills on the way to the quarterback. Allen is a cheetah off the edge with outstanding first-step quickness and an explosive closing burst. He can turn the corner on dip-and-rip maneuvers that showcase his exceptional balance and body control. Gary is a freak athlete with enough versatility to play inside or outside on the line. Although he's a better athlete than player at this point, the Michigan standout is a top-five talent.
As the NFL becomes more of a passing league, inside linebackers must be able to hit, run and cover to stay on the field. The 2019 class features a handful of athletic playmakers with the speed, quickness and versatility to occupy key roles in the middle of the field. White is an A-plus athlete with exceptional instincts and awareness. He flows to the ball quickly as a sideline-to-sideline pursuer, exhibiting a non-stop motor and relentless competitive spirit. With the LSU standout also looking like a heat-seeking missile on blitzes, coaches and scouts could view him as the No. 1 overall player in the draft by the end of the process. Bush is a little undersized, but he's a terrific playmaker as a sideline-to-sideline chaser. He displays outstanding instincts and awareness and flashes an electric closing burst getting to the ball. No. 10 is a natural leader with an alpha-dog persona that shows in his play. Tauaefa flew under the radar for most of the season, but he's a tackling machine with outstanding instincts and awareness.
The cornerback position is still held in high regard by team builders due to the impact a shutdown corner can make. The 2019 class doesn't necessarily feature a high-end lockdown corner, but there are plenty of prospects with the potential to start from Day 1. Williams is a long, rangy press corner with outstanding ball skills. He is at his best challenging receivers at the line but displays enough awareness to play effectively in zone coverage. Speed might be a question, but his natural instincts and playmaking ability should make him a solid starter in any system. Murphy is a feisty cover corner with a well-rounded game. He's capable of playing nose to nose in man coverage or sitting back and reading route concepts as a zone defender. With the Washington star also showing solid tackling skills on the perimeter, a late rise up the charts is possible before draft day. Mullen is a junkyard dog on the island with an aggressive game that is ideally suited for teams employing a lot of press coverage. He consistently knocks receivers around at the line and maintains good positioning throughout the route. As a solid tackler with a bit of a nasty streak, Mullen is the kind of player most defensive coordinators covet on the perimeter.
The 2019 safety class is stocked with high-IQ playmakers who possess instincts and ball skills. Abram is a heavy hitter with a knack for getting to the ball. He is an enforcer between the hashes but also exhibits the requisite ball skills and instincts to play in the deep middle. With Abram also flashing blitzing ability and run-stopping skills as a box defender, he is an intriguing puzzle piece to add to a defense. Adderley is a natural ballhawk with cornerback-like cover skills. He can cover wide receivers and tight ends in the slot or man the deep middle as a pure center fielder in a single-high defense. Although his size is a bit of a concern in run defense, the Delaware star shows enough courage and toughness to be a dependable player in the box. Rapp is a highly intelligent deep defender with excellent anticipation, awareness and instincts. He has a knack for getting around the football, which leads to a number of interceptions and deflections in the middle of the field.