In every draft class there are prospects labeled as safe picks and prospects labeled as risky. The 2019 NFL Draft class is no different with a handful of players who fall under each category. What makes a safe prospect? Usually it’s a player with very few holes in their game on tape, little to no injury history, and they’re known in the locker room as a high character leader. Some examples of safe prospects over the last few drafts are guys like Jamal Adams, DeForest Buckner, and Quenton Nelson. A risky prospect on the other hand tends to be a talented player with specific issues that’ll make teams worry. The issues can be injury related, off-field/character concerns, inconsistency on tape, or all of the above. Examples of a risky prospect in the last few drafts are Robert Nkemdiche, Reuben Foster, and Josh Allen. So who are the safe prospects that at minimum are going to be solid NFL starters and who are the guys with upside/hype from the media that NFL teams should worry about in the 2019 NFL Draft?
Quinnen Williams, IDL, Alabama
- It’s no secret that Quinnen Williams is considered the safest prospect in the 2019 NFL Draft. He’s a consensus top two player and has overtaken Nick Bosa for many draft analysts. Williams is a dominant player on tape who shows future All-Pro ability. He was the star of the Alabama D consistently making massive plays. It’s rare to find an interior defender of his size with the explosiveness and wiggle he brings to the table. Stick Williams at 3-Tech in a four-man front and let him be a disruptive penetrator. He’s not a one-trick-pony either, his strength at the point of attack, the leverage he plays with, and his ability to shed blocks and get into the backfield make him a dangerous run defender. Williams is also known as the highest character player in the draft with great leadership traits. He even led defensive meetings at Alabama.
Pro Comparison: Gerald McCoy
Good luck blocking Quinnen Williams. Combo of explosiveness, violent hands, wiggle, and motor make him a devastating interior pass rusher. pic.twitter.com/Y8SfLaqHWp
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) March 31, 2019
TJ Hockenson, TE, Iowa
- Due to positional value it’s tough to argue a tight end is worth a top 10 pick, but TJ Hockenson is undoubtedly a top 10 player in the 2019 NFL Draft. Hock is as complete a tight end prospect coming out of college as we’ve seen, it’s pretty much him and OJ Howard. Most college tight ends struggle in the run game, but Hock is out there pile driving defenders into the ground and taking them for a ride 10 yards downfield. In the passing game he uses his frame to do a terrific job making plays in traffic to win 50/50 balls. Not only does he have size, but his athleticism allows him to be a playmaker down the seam. After the catch he turns into a massive running back with dominant contact balance. Plug-and-play him and he can be the most complete tight end in the league.
Pro Comparison: George Kittle
Garrett Bradbury, C, North Carolina State
- No player has checked every box this draft season through the process like Garrett Bradbury has. It started with him dominating on tape at NC State then being a top player at the Senior Bowl and finally killing the combine. That’s just the on-field work too, word is he’s one of the best interviews and has one of the highest football IQs in the draft. Bradbury is the definition of plug-and-play for a decade. His short area quickness makes him a monster in the run game consistently getting up to the second level and springing his running backs for chunk runs. In pass protection his footwork, balance, and bend make him as technically refined a center as you’ll find. Bradbury has the ability to instantly become one of the best centers in the NFL. His IQ and leadership will not only make him a great player, but it will make an entire offensive line better.
Pro Comparison: Ryan Kalil
Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama
- A lot of the higher up NFL Draft analysts have been down on Jonah Williams lately. Many of them believe his best spot in the NFL will be at guard and view him more as a mid-first-round pick rather than a top 10 player. Well, his tape has given no reason to believe any of that. Williams is a monster on tape and other than some length questions, that are overblown, he doesn’t have many concerns. Playing in the SEC Williams dominated as the best run blocker in the country. He finishes every snap and would love to put every defender in the dirt. His Play strength, vice grip hands, SOB mentality, and ability to get to the second level will make him a top-end run blocker in the NFL. In pass pro he understands it’s not passive and attacks defenders. Williams is Pro Bowl caliber left tackle.
Pro Comparison: Joe Staley
Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
- It’s not a very good cornerback class at all, but Byron Murphy stands out as the best. While many of the other corners are height-weight-speed projections, Murphy is a technically refined corner whose main questions are athleticism and size. The thing is, he’s so damn instinctual and smooth that he has one of the highest floors in the draft. His footwork and fluidity are maybe the best in the draft and that showed at the combine when he won every single drill. Murphy’s lack of size shouldn’t be too much of a concern as he handles bigger players and has the ball skills and physicality to always challenge at the catch point. Stick him outside or at nickel or both and you’ve got a leader in your secondary. Murphy was mentioned as one of the highest character players at the combine.
Pro Comparison: Chris Harris Jr.
Two-play coverage sequence that sums up the good in Washington CB Byron Murphy's game in coverage. #NFLDraft
First play: good instincts in zone coverage to read QB and drive on wheel from the slot
Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
- In such a deep and talented wide receiver class one pass catcher is safer than the rest. That would be Deebo Samuel, and what makes him so safe? His ability to make plays after the catch, run routes, and contribute wherever you need him on the offense. When Deebo has the ball in his hands he turns into a running back with his ability to break tackles and create YAC. He’s perfect for today’s NFL in a role that gets him the ball in space, but with his route running and release off the line he’s more than just a YAC guy. With crisp routes and a clean release Deebo consistently beats defenders in man coverage, he put on a show at the Senior Bowl. Any team who gets Deebo gets an instant playmaker who can add value moving around the offense and returning kicks.
Pro Comparison: Golden Tate
Chris Lindstrom, IOL, Boston College
- A lot of the time in the draft there’s an interior offensive lineman who goes in the second-round despite everyone knowing he’s got Pro Bowl talent. Chris Lindstrom is that guy this year. He’s a mean, athletic, and smart football player who can step right in and start at guard. In the run game he’s as physical as they come and plays through the whistle. In pass pro he’s got heavy hands and great balance to make him a load to beat. With his explosiveness he often makes impressive reach blocks on linebackers in the second level that create huge running plays. There’s very few concerns with Lindstrom’s game overall and O-line coaches will love his mentality. He’s a leader up front who’s vocal and will often let the defender know when he’s kicking their ass, he did it frequently at the Senior Bowl with Dalton Risner.
Pro Comparison: Joel Bitonio
Taylor Rapp, S, Washington
- There are some guys who when you watch their tape you just say, “now that’s a football player.” Taylor Rapp is very much that type of guy. He’s not the most athletic safety in the world, but he always ends up around the football. Rapp has instincts for days and is always in the positon to make a play. There are no questions about him as a run defender with his physicality and consistent tackling. He’s also got the versatility to play overhang, in the box, or man up on tight ends. Although he didn’t test at a high-level, he’s much faster on tape than his 40 time suggests. With his skill set he’s going to be a starter for a long time and a leader in a secondary. Rapp is a great value pick on Day 2.
Pro Comparison: Antoine Bethea
Chase Winovich, EDGE, Michigan
- Everybody knew Chase Winovich was a grit and grind type of player, but with his athletic upside he’s so much more than just a try harder player. Winovich could be a potential late-first-round pick. He did far more on tape at Michigan than Rashan Gary and is far more pro-ready. Winovich can plug-and-play at EDGE for basically any defensive front with his motor, violent hands, and explosiveness. He might not be a consistent double digit sack guy in the NFL, but he’s going to be damn disruptive. Think of him as a player that will always play the run at a high-level and make plays that won’t necessarily show up in the box score, like a Chris Long or Brandon Graham. Winovich might have a higher floor than every edge rusher in the class not named Nick Bosa.
Pro Comparison: Chris Long
Defenders with <= 4.65 40s and <=7.0 3-cones weighing >250 pounds at combine this century:
Leighton Vander Esch
— Mike Renner (@PFF_Mike) April 1, 2019
Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
- Do you want Devin or Devin at linebacker? Well, Devin White might get more hype, but not only is Devin Bush a better football player, he’s also the far safer pick. Bush might get knocked for being slightly short, not that it should matter much for an off-ball LB, but he’s pretty set in every other way on the field. He’s got sideline-to-sideline speed, loves to come up and thump in the run game, has the athleticism to cover backs, and has some of the best instincts in the class. Now, it’s a terribly weak linebacker class, but Bush is the guy every team who needs one should be looking at in the mid to late-first-round. He’s an emotional leader on the field with a high IQ and although he’s not in the tier of a Roquan Smith, he’s ready to start on an NFL defense right now.
Pro Comparison: Myles Jack
More Michigan tape really just emphasize my initial judgement:
Devin Bush (@_Dbush11) is the best linebacker in the draft.
Its. Not. Close. pic.twitter.com/KN8ICM14dm
— Thank you Foles (Thomas) (@thomasrp93) March 30, 2019
Jachai Polite, EDGE, Florida
- There might not be a harder evaluation in the entire 2019 NFL Draft than Jachai Polite. He went from a potential top 10 prospect to a potential Day 3 pick in just two months. On tape Polite is a monstrous pass rusher with elite bend, multiple pass rush moves, and a big motor. Yet, he threw it all away in the lead up to the draft. He showed up to the NFL Combine looking like he put on bad weight, ran a slow 40, got injured, and blew it in interviews with teams. Then… he tested even worse at the Florida Pro Day and got injured again. With character concerns, injury concerns, and poor testing a team might not be willing to spend even a Day 2 pick on him despite his quality tape. A top 20 player with this many concerns… that’s risky for the NFL.
Pro Comparison: Melvin Ingram
I’m with Cris Collinsworth on this one. Jachai Polite has been terrible pre-draft, but I can’t throwout his dominance on tape. Polite is a top 20 player based on tape and will have a first-round grade from me despite everything that’s gone wrong. He’s a risky pick, but tape >>>> https://t.co/PBark1fhWZ
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) April 2, 2019
Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
- Ah the classic height-weight-speed freak who looks the part, but doesn’t show up on tape. Rashan Gary has been hyped for years, but has never put it together on the field. There’s been flashes, but Gary is raw and disappears for large stretches of games on tape. The NFL has a history of overvaluing pass rushers who are freaky even if they don’t have great tape and Gary is just that. He’s a mid-second-round type of player who might end up going top 10 for what he could be and not what he is on the field. A smart team will take advantage of the athleticism, power, and versatility by moving him all over the field to get the most out of him. Taking a guy like Gary top 10 is the type of move that gets people fired in the NFL.
Pro Comparison: Adalius Thomas
Jaylon Ferguson, EDGE, Louisiana Tech
- The Jaylon Ferguson first-round hype doesn’t make any sense. He’s not even a Day 2 pick on tape. Ferguson shouldn’t go higher than the fourth-round, but because he had 45 sacks in college the big NFL Draft media seems to think he’ll be a top pick. Scout the tape not the stats. Not only is Ferguson not a first-round pick on tape, but he tested terribly at the Louisiana Tech Pro Day lowlighted by an 8.08 3-cone time. That’s historically bad for a relevant pass rusher. Ferguson is a risky pick because he’s being propped up as something he’s not, a stud edge rusher. Any team taking him before Day 3 is gambling on production. In reality Ferguson is a rotational EDGE with strong hand use and a solid ability vs the run, he should be a fifth or sixth-round pick.
Pro Comparison: Za’Darius Smith
Here’s the Jaylon Ferguson 3-Cone footage via @PatrickClaybon.
This is his SEVENTH attempt after several slips.
Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
- It’s always going to be risky taking a quarterback early in the NFL Draft. It’s the toughest position in all of sports and so much goes into becoming a successful one, but some QBs are riskier than others. Drew Lock is the classic big, athletic, and strong armed QB that gets overdrafted due to his physical traits. Lock does have a great arm and can make some magical throws, but there’s more questions than answers with his tape. He’s got awful lower body mechanics and rarely engages his lower half when throwing the ball. Lock also struggles to get through reads on time and has a tendency to lock onto WRs and force balls into tight windows. It’s tough to draft a naturally inaccurate passer with mechanical issues early, but John Elway will probably do it.
Pro Comparison: Jay Cutler
Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
- There was a time when Greedy Williams was a consensus top 10 player and the clear best cornerback in the draft and then people dug into the tape. There’s no denying Greedy has wonderful athletic gifts and his movement skills are rare, but there are so many holes in his game. For starters he plays lackadaisical football half the time he’s on the field. He’ll go from making a beautiful play in perfect coverage to looking like he couldn’t careless about football, that’s scary. It didn’t help that he showed up to the combine and struggled in basically every drill. His hips were tight and his footwork messy which created even more concerns about his technique. A team will fall in love with his natural ability, but he’s not a first-round talent. Greedy is an athletic project.
Pro Comparison: Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie
Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
- Is Daniel Jones risky? Depends where he’s drafted. He’s somewhat of the anti-Drew Lock. You know what you’re getting in him, an athletic, accurate, mechanically clean, high football IQ passer. The issue is his arm talent. He doesn’t have the arm to be a franchise QB and his velocity is inconsistent. It feels as if Jones’ talent is already maxed out and this is what he is and he won’t be anything more aka highish floor, low ceiling. Taking a guy like Jones in the first-round is the type of move that keeps your franchise in purgatory. He’s in the Andy Dalton/Ryan Tannehill/Case Keenum mold. Jones is solid, but he’s closer to a fourth-round talent than a first-round talent and to take that to be your franchise QB is as risky as it gets.
Pro Comparison: Ryan Tannehill
Devin White, LB, LSU
- It’s basically a done deal that Devin White is going to be a top 10 pick, likely to the Buccaneers fifth overall. That’s wild because he’s all projection at a devalued position. White is a raw and freaky athlete playing linebacker and it shows. There’s no denying his explosiveness and aggressiveness on the field, he plays at 100 miles an hour looking to take heads off. He also has major concerns in coverage and doesn’t have the instincts needed to be a top-end linebacker in the NFL. It doesn’t help that he can be swallowed up by blocks. When watching White it’s clear he’s still learning to play linebacker, but the NFL is falling in love with his flashes of brilliance. His ceiling is quite high, but it’s going to take time to develop him and he’s going to struggle early.
Pro Comparison: Thomas Davis
Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State
- Taking a guy like Parris Campbell is risky because he’s not a regular wide receiver. Whichever team drafts him needs to understand how to use him. The majority of damage Campbell did at Ohio State didn’t come down the field despite him being billed as some sort of deep threat. He was at his best on screen passes and pop passes. The majority of major plays he made came around the line of scrimmage. He’s not a true WR1 and shouldn’t be taken in the first-round. The most effective way to use Campbell is to manufacture touches for him, like they did at Ohio State. Get the ball in his hands and let him make YAC plays. He’s an explosive player, but if a team tries to make him a true WR then they’re just using him wrong.
Pro Comparison: Percy Harvin
Parris Campbell has elite, track speed… But Ohio State didn't just send him on verticals – in fact, they barely did.
Campbell has 2 CAREER catches on passes of 20+ air yards..
N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State
- It’s not the same situation for N’Keal Harry as it is for Parris Campbell, but it is similar. The team that drafts Harry needs to understand what he is and how to use him. Harry is a big strong pass catcher who wins 50/50 balls and does big damage after the catch, but there are many concerns with him. He has athleticism questions, struggles to separate, and doesn’t run clean routes. The best way to use him is in the jumbo slot role, like how the Steelers use JuJu Smith-Schuster. Let him make plays around the line of scrimmage with his YAC and give him 50/50 shots downfield with mismatches on nickels. Taking Harry in early to be a true X-WR is risky because that’s not what he’s built to be. In the right system and role, he’s worth a first-round pick.
Pro Comparison: JuJu Smith-Schuster
N'Keal Harry can win with power. Does a great job using his body to win off the line and finishes with big YAC for the score. Some will question his athleticism, but they did with JuJu Smith-Schuster too #BellLetsTalk pic.twitter.com/DdhYuISxjV
— Rob Paul (@RobPaulNFL) January 30, 2019
Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma
- It’s no secret that Rodney Anderson has more injury concerns than anybody in the 2019 NFL Draft. In four years at Oklahoma Anderson had three season-ending injuries and is coming off a torn ACL. If not for the injury history Anderson would be a top two running back in the class, but he’s such a risky player at a notoriously injury prone position. When he is on the field Anderson is a home run hitter with his burst, short area quickness, and open field elusiveness. With his size and contact balance he has the ability to pickup tough yards when needed despite being inclined to look for the big run over the smart run. He also adds a ton of value as a natural pass catcher out of the backfield and has the ability to contribute on every down. Anderson will likely fall to Day 3.
Pro Comparison: David Johnson
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