With the 2019 NFL Draft just around the corner, teams are starting to complete their draft boards. While each team is detailed and thorough during the draft process, great talent still always manages to fall through the cracks.
There’s no way the Los Angeles Chargers thought Derwin James would be available when they put together their draft board for last year’s NFL Draft. But as is the case every year, the draft was unpredictable. They happened to benefit from an incredible player falling through the cracks.
There may not be a guy like James in this year’s draft, but to think that there won’t be a few high caliber prospects that slip again this year is foolish. Here are three potential prospects who could fall on draft day and provide great value to whoever drafts them:
Nick Bosa and Josh Allen are clearly the two best pass rushers in this year’s draft. But Brian Burns is right behind them. And in my opinion, the gap is closer than most people think. The thing to love about Burns is his versatility. Not only is he one of the most refined pass rushers in the class, but he is also a terrific run defender and can even drop into coverage on occasion.
Burns was a monster at Florida State. He racked up 23 sacks and seven forced fumbles in his three-year career and received All-ACC first-team honors in 2018.
The biggest concern with Burns is his size. Last year at Florida State he played at around 235 pounds, which is severely underweight for an NFL edge defender. At the combine, he did come in much larger, at 249 pounds. That’s a better weight but still not ideal, especially considering prospects routinely manufacture their weight at the combine to look better in front of scouts.
Despite his lack of size, Burns plays much bigger than his vitals show. Because he is so technically sound, his hand placement and burst off the line of scrimmage allow him to quickly gain leverage on opposing offensive linemen. He also has the innate ability to diagnose plays and is always around the ball.
In my opinion, Burns is just a flat-out better prospect than both Rashan Gary and Montez Sweat who have received top ten hype. Yet Burns has generated almost no top ten buzz. Some even think he could fall into the back half of the first round.
Bucky Brooks of the NFL Network even considered the possibility of Burns being available for the Arizona Cardinals at the top of the second round.
A team like Carolina at 16 would likely salivate over Burns is he were still available. Being able to select a top ten talent in the middle of the first round without having to mortgage any draft capital is a dream scenario for any GM.
Jonah Williams will enter the 2019 NFL Draft as one of the most decorated prospects in the class. During his career at Alabama, he was a 2016 Freshman All-American, and two-time All-SEC First team performer. He was also a two time All-American (including a unanimous selection in 2018). The scariest thing about him is that he is a full year younger than Quenton Nelson was when he entered the draft last year.
Williams is already the most experienced lineman coming into the draft. He may also be the most refined blocker to come into the league in years. His blend of balance and power allow him to constantly dominate edge defenders in the passing game. He’s also extremely light on his feet and is an incredible blocker in space, a trait that is covered in the modern NFL. Maybe Williams’ biggest positive is his versatility. He played both left and right tackle at Alabama and projects favorably if he were to move to guard in the NFL.
Williams doesn’t come without flaws however; his most obvious being his lack of length. His small arms are the primary reason behind teams moving him down draft boards. Many scouts believe he will have to transition to guard in the NFL because his arms are too short to play tackle. This has prompted some scouts to put guys like Jawaan Taylor and Andre Dillard ahead of him because of their definite ability to play tackle at the next level.
Regardless of what position Williams ends up playing, he is as close to a can’t miss prospect as one can get. His consistency on tape and refined technique will allow him to step into any offense and start immediately at the next level.
Uncertainty around his ability to play tackle in the NFL will deter some teams. But, whoever picks this guy up is getting a potential perennial All-Pro. Jonah Williams may just be the steal of this draft class.
For much of the 2018 season, AJ Brown was considered the best receiver in this year’s draft. It remained that way until the infamous picture of superhuman teammate D.K. Metcalf began to make its rounds on the internet. Now, as the NFL Draft is right around the corner, Brown has become somewhat of an afterthought. Marquise Brown, N’Keal Henry, Parris Campbell, and even Andy Isabella have all received considerably more hype than AJ Brown. While he once projected as a top 15 pick, he has now slid into the second round on some boards.
Of course, every year player projections look much different from during the season to draft day. But Brown has done nothing since the college football season to give scouts a reason to push him down draft boards. In fact, he even suppressed some of the doubts surrounding him. At the NFL combine, he ran a 4.49 after many scouts questioned his speed.
Brown shines in the short and intermediate passing game, routinely separating from coverage. This ability, paired with his tremendous run after catch prowess, allowed him to be a dominant slot receiver at Ole Miss. Brown is a very interesting prospect because he is not built like a prototypical slot receiver.
When thinking of slot receivers in the NFL, guys like Julian Edelman, Cole Beasley, and Randall Cobb come to mind. Brown is much bigger and is more physical than all of those guys. That physicality allows him to be a nasty run blocker as well, which is an underrated skill from slot receivers.
He can carve out a very productive role for himself in the slot right away in the NFL. But with his size, I believe he can also be groomed into a competent outside receiver as well. He may never grow into a full time outside receiver, but having the ability to do so from time to time adds tremendous value.
Brown’s upside doesn’t come close to that of teammate DK Metcalf. But, I believe Brown will be much more productive at the next level.
The NFL Draft is almost here
Of course, this is all speculation. As stated earlier, nobody really knows what is going to happen on draft day. One wildcard pick can throw off an entire draft board. The good news: The draft is less than a month away. Soon the speculation will be over and we will get concrete answers.