With the college football season imminently approaching, it’s never to early to look ahead to the 2019 Draft and explore which position groups are deepest, and which players are worth watching, starting with the offensive side of the ball. While it’s very early, this year looks to be deep along the offensive line, especially at offensive tackle. On the flip side, most of the skill position groups appear to be lacking when compared to previous years.
Unlike last year with Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, and Sam Darnold, no one is really sure which signal callers deserve to be anointed as first-round prospects. Surprisingly, the SEC is the conference to watch when it comes to quarterbacks. Missouri’s Drew Lock, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham, and Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald are all talented, but they have various flaws that keep them from being in the first round conversation at this time. Lock needs to improve on his sub-60% completion percentage, Stidham needs to work on his pocket presence, and Fitzgerald needs to learn to read the whole field. Other players to watch are West Virginia’s Will Grier, NC State’s Ryan Finley,and Oregon’s Justin Herbert.
NFL fans have been spoiled in recent years with the amount of high quality running backs coming from the college ranks, but 2019 may break that trend. Though Alabama’s Damien Harris, Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill,and Florida Atlantic’s Devin Singletary are good prospects, none of them have been as dominant as Ezekiel Elliott or Saquon Barkley were in college. Others prospects have dominant athleticism, but need to prove that they can handle a starting workload. Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson and Florida State’s Jacques Patrick fit that description. However, keep an eye on Iowa State’s David Montgomery. His running style reminds some of a young Marshawn Lynch.
It’s safe to declare Ole Miss receiver AJ Brown, with his dominant hands and strength in the open field, as a top prospect regardless of position. Outside of Brown, Arizona State’s N’Keal Harry’s 6’4” frame makes him a dominant red zone target. Closer to home, University at Buffalo’s Anthony Johnson puts up great numbers in the MAC conference, but he needs to answer questions about his long speed. This year’s premier deep threat is Marquise (Hollywood) Brown, who must continue to be productive despite losing Baker Mayfield to the NFL. Similar to the quarterbacks, this group of wideouts carries a lot of uncertainty and a fair share of question marks.
Iowa has been an NFL tight end factory for a while now, but their product this year might be their best ever. Hawkeye Noah Fant is an athletic freak who can do it all as a blocker and a pass catcher. In returning from a 2018 injury, UCLA’s Caleb Wilson needs to show that his elite speed and receiving skills haven’t left him. The best tight end tandem in the nation, however, may be the one at LSU. Senior Foster Moreau has some soft hands and is a good stalk blocker, but Thaddeus Moss (son of Randy) could be the star of the show as a receiving option.
2018 was a weak year for offensive tackles, with only three (Mike McGlinchey, Kolton Miller, Isaiah Wynn) selected in the first round. This year promises to be quite different, with up to five prospects already being anointed as potential franchise players. The list starts with Alabama’s Jonah Williams, who has been able to lock down the blind side for the Crimson Tide for a number of years. Ole Miss tackle Greg Little is more potential than finished product, but his potential at 6’6” and 325 pounds is massive. Washington’s Trey Adams is returning from a knee injury, and he has drawn comparisons to Jack Conklin of the Tennessee Titans. Clemson’s Mitch Hyatt is undersized at 6’5” and 311 pounds, but he is saved by his quickness and technique. Finally, Wisconsin right tackle David Edwards needs to work on his pass protection, but his run blocking appears to be elite.
Interior Offensive Line
The interior offensive line group this year promises to be solid overall. As one would expect, Wisconsin leads the way with pro-ready prospects at both center (Michael Deiter) and guard (Beau Benzschawel). If you like watching dominant offensive line play, watch Wisconsin football. Alternatively, you can tune in to the SEC, specifically to Florida and Arkansas who sport insatiable run blocker Martez Ivey and Frank Ragnow-sucessor Hjalte Froholdt, respectively.