NFL experts predict: Answering the 2019 draft's biggest questions

ByESPN NFL Experts ESPN logo
Friday, May 10, 2019

Round 1 of the2019 NFL draftfeatured six draft-day trades, pass-rushers and defensive linemen galore, and surprises throughout. Rounds 2-7? That's where teams will find the real value.

Our panel of ESPN NFL experts evaluates the full new crop of rookies, diving into their favorite picks and answering questions about what we should expect this season. Check back every day this week to see more answers.

The topics our panel has hit so far (click the links to see the answers):

Give us a Round 2-7 pick who has some value in fantasy this season.

Matt Bowen, NFL analyst:Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers. The South Carolina product has the skill set to play in the slot or bump outside of the numbers. And I love his game after the catch. He's an aggressive runner with the ball in his hands. Look for Kyle Shanahan to create plenty of middle-of-the-field opportunities for Samuel in his rookie season.

Mike Clay, fantasy writer: David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears. Jordan Howard wasn't dynamic enough to operate as a clear feature back in Matt Nagy's offense, but Montgomery certainly is. The Iowa State product lacks top-end speed, but he's big and super elusive, and he can help as a receiver. Expect him to quickly take on a bulk of Chicago's carries while stealing targets from Tarik Cohen.

Dan Graziano, national NFL writer: David Montgomery, RB, Chicago Bears. I know Matt Nagy wants to change his offensive game plan week-to-week (maybe quarter-to-quarter) based on matchups. But if he has a three-down back who can handle the bulk of the carries and contribute in protection, I don't doubt he'll lean on him. Montgomery could be that guy.

KC Joyner, fantasy writer: Benny Snell Jr., RB, Pittsburgh Steelers. Snell is perfectly suited to work as the Steelers' goal-line back. That could give him great fantasy depth value, given Pittsburgh's offensive firepower, and could make Snell a valuable DFS pick in many weeks.

Mina Kimes, NFL writer: Parris Campbell, WR, Indianapolis Colts. Frank Reich wants Andrew Luck to get the ball out quickly, making Campbell the perfect weapon for the Colts' offense. Although he might not draw many targets in the end zone, he'll rack up significant yards after the catch on slants and screens.

Jason Reid, The Undefeated senior writer: Mecole Hardman, WR/KR, Kansas City Chiefs. The speedy wide receiver could step in and start in the slot. With the uncertainty of Tyreek Hill's situation, Hardman could quickly become a major part of the Chiefs' offense.

Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: Deebo Samuel, WR, San Francisco 49ers.Samuel looks like a great fit for Kyle Shanahan and could be another Pierre Garcon-type producer. I also like the Colts' Campbell (one GM thought he'd need a year of seasoning) and think the Rams' Darrell Henderson is a player to watch (skepticism outweighs optimism on Todd Gurley II).

Kevin Seifert, national NFL writer: Mecole Hardman, WR/KR, Kansas City Chiefs. Coach Andy Reid's migration toward college concepts makes it easier to project immediate impact from receivers. In other words, Hardman is more equipped to contribute right away than he would have been in other schemes. With an MVP at quarterback and the possible exit of Tyreek Hill, the opportunity will be there.

Field Yates, NFL analyst: Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles traded for Jordan Howard this offseason, but the second-round investment in Sanders was far more significant. He's a capable receiver, which lends itself to him staying on the field in a variety of situations. The Philly backfield is crowded, but Sanders has a chance to emerge as the most valuable piece of it.

Who is your early pick for Defensive Rookie of the Year?

Bowen: Darnell Savage Jr., S,Green Bay Packers. Savage can close on the ball with immediate speed, and his playmaking versatility in the secondary gives defensive coordinator Mike Pettine some real options in the game plan. Play Savage in the post, roll him down in coverage over the slot, or allow him to blitz in sub-package schemes. I would love to coach this guy.

Clay: Devin White, LB,Tampa Bay Buccaneers. New Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles used some combination of David Harris, Demario Davis, Darron Lee and Avery Williamson as every-down duos in his four seasons with the Jets. That suggests White will be a full-time player next to Lavonte David this season, which means a ton of opportunities for tackles and big plays.

Graziano: Nick Bosa, DE,San Francisco 49ers. I think he's the best bet among this crew for double-digit sacks (a rare rookie feat his brother pulled off a few years ago). Because individual interception totals are just about impossible to predict, I'll go with the guy I think is going to get the most sacks. These awards tend to go to the guys who put up big counting numbers.

Joyner: Devin Bush, LB,Pittsburgh Steelers. The domino effect he is likely to have on the Steelers' defense could be what's needed to get Pittsburgh back into Super Bowl contention.

Kimes: Nick Bosa, DE,San Francisco 49ers. If Bosa can reap double-digit sacks -- a task that will be made easier by the presence of trade acquisition Dee Ford and the continued development of DeForest Buckner -- it's going to be hard not to give him the award. I think the Devins might make just as much of an impact, but Bosa's statistics will push him over the top.

Reid: Devin Bush, LB,Pittsburgh Steelers. He's a big-time talent who fills a major need for Pittsburgh. And if he's as good as we think he could be, Bush could take the Steelers' defense to a higher level.

Sando: Devin Bush, LB,Pittsburgh Steelers. He'll make an immediate impact on a high-profile defense at an obvious position of need.

Seifert: Darnell Savage Jr., S,Green Bay Packers. This decision involves a bit of voter projection. Savage is a speedy playmaker who is known for anticipating throws and getting early jumps on the ball. Voters usually notice, and often reward, defensive players who pile up tangible statistics such as sacks, interceptions, passes defensed and forced or recovered fumbles. That should put Savage in the mix, given that there is likely an immediate starting job awaiting him.

Yates: Devin White, LB,Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs linebacker checks a ton of the boxes that portend immediate success: a terrific prospect who fills the largest need on a Bucs defense that should improve under coordinator Todd Bowles. Linebackers also stuff the stat sheet; 100 tackles should be no surprise.

Who is your early pick for Offensive Rookie of the Year?

Bowen: Josh Jacobs, RB,Oakland Raiders. Kyler Murray might be the early favorite, but let's not forget about Jacobs. He's going to get the touches in Jon Gruden's offense, and the three-down ability we saw on his Bama film will translate to the NFL game.

Clay: Kyler Murray, QB,Arizona Cardinals. Barring injury, Murray will be under center the entire season. Even if he comes out slowly in terms of passing efficiency, the first overall pick will be a big-time playmaker running the ball. He should be a heavy favorite for the award.

Graziano: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Washington. One of these years, Washington will manage to keep its offensive line healthy for a full season. When that happens, we'll remember that it's a very good one. There are major questions at receiver, sure, but dump-offs to Chris Thompson and Jordan Reed should help ease Haskins' transition to the pros. With a little health luck, Washington could be a sleeper team.

Joyner: Kyler Murray, QB,Arizona Cardinals. But don't count out Dwayne Haskins, who goes to a Washington offense that could protect him much more efficiently than Arizona's weak offensive line will protect Murray.

Kimes: Kyler Murray, QB,Arizona Cardinals. It's obvious from the Cardinals' draft that the team is committed to building the sort of high-flying offensive attack that Murray ran at Oklahoma. Arizona might not boost its win total significantly -- the roster is still pretty thin -- but I expect the rookie quarterback to make an impact as a Day 1 starter.

Reid: Dwayne Haskins, QB, Washington. Look, I think Murray will have a big year, though he'll likely have to get it done mostly on the run because of Arizona's O-line. But there's something about Haskins. And Washington's offensive line will block 'em up for the young fella.

Sando: Kyler Murray, QB,Arizona Cardinals. There seems to be a theme running through my answers to this point.

Seifert: T.J. Hockenson, TE,Detroit Lions. Coach Matt Patricia has wanted a big, dual-threat tight end since he arrived in Detroit, having first pursued Rob Gronkowski via trade last year. Now he has a younger and only slightly less polished version of Gronk. Patricia's focus on the position suggests he has big plans, and Hockenson is certainly up to the challenge.

Yates: Kyler Murray, QB,Arizona Cardinals. It might not always be pretty -- that's part of the process for a rookie quarterback -- but Murray should be a 16-game starter with exceptional ability to attack a defense in a variety of ways. I appreciated the way GM Steve Keim continued to address the skill group on offense, helping build a steadier supporting cast around Murray.

Which team's rookie class will make the biggest impact in 2019?

Bowen: New England Patriots. The Patriots' top four selections should all play roles as rookies. Start with WR N'Keal Harry. He fills a need at the position, with the big body to run inside breaking routes and finish on contested throws. CB Joejuan Williams fits as a man-coverage defender with a monster, 6-foot-4 frame and ball skills at the point of attack. OLB Chase Winovich? He's a versatile edge defender with pass-rush upside. And RB Damien Harris brings a decisive, downhill running style to the Patriots' offense, with the receiving skills and pass-protection ability to square up blitzing linebackers.

Clay: Seattle Seahawks. Seattle headed to Nashville with a multitude of holes on its roster and did a nice job adding prospects at several of those positions. To name a few, first-round pick L.J. Collier will need to play a gigantic role on the edge, safetyMarquise Blair will compete for a Week 1 starting gig opposite Bradley McDougald, and WRs DK Metcalf and Gary Jennings will immediately compete for major snaps with Doug Baldwin seemingly on the verge of retirement.

Graziano: Oakland Raiders. The Raiders clearly went into the draft looking for players who could start right away, and at this stage, there's no reason to think Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs and Johnathan Abram won't do that. Second-round pick Trayvon Mullen should be in position to at least compete for a starting spot and maybe will win one. The Raiders needed a ton of help, especially on defense, so there's opportunity almost everywhere for rookies to jump in.

Joyner: Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers were a pass-happy team that didn't tackle well and often played uninspired football last season. This draft class was selected to help fix that, as linebackerDevin Bush, cornerbackJustin Layne and running backBenny Snell Jr. all add an immediate dose of physicality and toughness to an organization that needs a reminder of what Steelers football is supposed to be.

Kimes: Arizona Cardinals. It's possible that Arizona's first five draft picks could all see the field early in the season. No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray is the team's starting quarterback, and because the wide receiver group is so shallow, I think he'll throw to second-rounder Andy Isabella and fourth-rounder Hakeem Butler right away. In second-rounder Byron Murphy, the Cardinals found a polished cornerback worthy of playing opposite Patrick Peterson. Defensive end Zach Allen and safety Deionte Thompson both have starter potential as well. Arizona crushed this draft.

Reid: Arizona Cardinals. No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray has the tools to have a massive rookie season in the offense new head coach Kliff Kingsbury runs. Given how bad the roster was last season, the Cardinals' other picks figure to get many opportunities as well. Look for second-rounder Byron Murphy to challenge starting corner Robert Alford. Murphy loved to hit in college at Washington.

Sando: Arizona Cardinals. Kyler Murray alone could make the greatest impact. There should be plenty of playing time for several other draft choices on both sides of the ball, including second-round corner Byron Murphy.

Seifert: Arizona Cardinals. The less talented a team is, the better the chance of an immediate impact from the draft class. And no team has more holes than the Cardinals. An offense centered around Kyler Murray, featuring as many as three receivers from this draft, will draw plenty of attention to this class.

Yates: Oakland Raiders. Part of this is a reflection of the incumbent roster, but the Raiders landed -- reasonably speaking -- four likely Day 1 starters in this class. Josh Jacobs profiles as an obvious workhorse back, Clelin Ferrell helps fill a tremendous need, and Johnathan Abram will be a tone-setter on defense.

Who was your favorite pick of the draft?

Bowen: DT Quinnen Williams to the New York Jets(No. 3 overall). Everything you see on tape with Williams is real. This guy is an interior game-wrecker who can rush the passer. And he has the versatility to play in multiple fronts for new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Clay: QB Kyler Murray to the Arizona Cardinals(No. 1). If there was one player in this draft who could immediately change a franchise's fortune, it's Murray. Top quarterback prospects often are either prolific passers or super athletic. Murray is both. Props to Arizona for not succumbing to sunk cost bias with Josh Rosen and taking the potential game-changing quarterback in Murray.

Graziano: DE/OLB Josh Allen to the Jacksonville Jaguars(No. 7). What a break for Tom Coughlin's current team that his former team passed on the talented Kentucky pass-rusher at No. 6 and left Allen for the Jaguars. Allen adds to a position of strength, and being around the star players on all three levels of the Jacksonville defense should only help him fit in and make an impact as soon as possible.

Joyner: LB Devin Bush to the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 10). John Madden used to say that one or two tough tacklers can make all of the difference on defense, as their enthusiasm for hitting can inspire the rest of the defenders to be better hitters and tacklers. Bush will be that type of tackling and hitting difference-maker for a Steelers defense that hasn't been the same following Ryan Shazier's devastating injury.

Kimes: DT Ed Oliver to the Buffalo Bills(No. 9). I liked the value that Jacksonville got with Josh Allen, but Oliver to the Bills was a better fit. He's the perfect replacement for Kyle Williams: a strong, explosive tackle who can rush the passer from the inside. Plus, he will finally get to play his correct position.

Reid: QB Dwayne Haskins to the Washington Redskins (No. 15). Shortly before the 2012 draft, the Redskins sent four high-round picks -- three in the first round and one in the second -- to acquire the second overall pick from the then-St. Louis Rams. They used that pick to select quarterback Robert Griffin III. Obviously, Griffin didn't work out over the long haul. With the franchise still unsettled at QB, Washington used a first-round pick on Haskins, who obliterated Ohio State's single-season marks for passing yards and touchdown passes. I get that there are questions about him, partly because he started only one season for the Buckeyes, but he's a sharp, true pocket passer. And I almost forgot: Haskins has a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder after falling to No. 15. For Washington, this could work out spectacularly.

Sando: QB Kyler Murray to the Arizona Cardinals (No. 1). Murray makes the Cardinals such a compelling team and gives them a chance to have a truly dynamic quarterback. The biggest short-term concern is whether Arizona can protect him.

Seifert: QB Drew Lock to the Denver Broncos (No. 42). Whether he was overrated in mock drafts is irrelevant at this point. The Broncos grabbed a quarterback who has nearly 50 games of experience at the SEC level, with perhaps the strongest arm in the entire draft, at a point in the second round where there is no pressure to get him on the field. He is easily John Elway's best pick at the position.

Yates: DT Quinnen Williams to the New York Jets (No. 3). I'll keep it simple: I thought Williams was the best player in the class. Getting him at No. 3 was not necessarily a heist -- the Cardinals were all-in on a quarterback upgrade, and Nick Bosa is the same caliber of player as Williams -- but the Jets were able to stay in their slot when they were unable to find a trade-down partner to land the star defensive lineman.

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