The board is set. The contingency plans are in place. The phone lines are installed and ready to connect with Nashville…and, if needed, one of 31 other similar environments around the country.
The Draft Room at the AdventHealth Training Center is ready for operation, and that's good because the long-anticipated 2019 NFL Draft is now just hours away. After months of scouting, in person and through game tape, and after approximately a million analysts have tried to predict what will happen, the draft will commence shortly after 8:00 p.m. ET on Thursday night and the real picks will begin. Barring a trade, the Arizona Cardinals will be on the clock first.
Within an hour or two we'll have the answers to most of the burning draft questions we've been pondering for months. Will Arizona really take a quarterback in the first round for a second straight year? Will the top of the draft be dominated by pass-rushers? Will any other team trade up to secure a potential franchise quarterback? And most importantly to the authors and the readers in this space, what name will come out of the aforementioned Draft Room at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers headquarters?
Before that happens, however, Carmen Vitali and I are going to take one more crack at mock drafting the first round. We began that effort in February and have posted new versions on a bi-weekly basis. In those first six versions, the two of us alternated picks, and each of us got to own and execute the Buccaneers' selection three times. This final one is going to be different. Call it a dueling draft between Carmen and I. At each spot we will both give our predictions of what we think will happen. Later, after the draft is concluded, we'll revisit these picks and see who proved to be the better prognosticator.
One note: Trades will be allowed. I actually predicted two deals, while Carmen had three thanks to the Patriots sliding out of the first round at the last minute. Neither of us predicted a Buccaneer trade, however, so that's one of the topics will discuss with a few extra questions at the bottom of this draft.
And one last time: Though you are reading this on Buccaneers.com, none of what follows is meant to reflect the strategy or thinking of Jason Licht, Bruce Arians or any others involved in the Buccaneers' actual draft decision-making. These are our guesses, Carmen and Scott. Blame us if you don't like them.
And we're off.
1. Arizona Cardinals
Scott Smith: QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
Kliff Kingsbury puts his money where his mouth is (or where it was last fall before he amazingly ended up in position to back it up) and takes the player who could be transformative for the franchise. This happens whether or not the Cardinals trade Josh Rosen before the draft.
Carmen Vitali: QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
I know that there's a last-ditch smoke screen effort going on that's saying Arizona may not end up taking Murray after all, but where there's smoke, there's fire. And there's still a lot of smoke around this one.
2. San Francisco 49ers
SS: DT Quinnen Williams, Alabama
Williams or Bosa? Bosa or Williams? Tough choice but the acquisition of Dee Ford gives them a new edge rusher so I think they go for an inside complement here.
CV: DT Quinnen Williams, Alabama
I think Williams is the best prospect in the draft. He has talent but more than that, he's blown absolutely everyone away in his interview and one-on-ones with his football IQ. This guy is supposed to be a day-one veteran. Plus, the 49ers got Dee Ford to help off the edge. They can help the pass rush from the interior with Williams.
3. New York Jets
SS: DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State
The Jets might have been thinking about trading down with a QB-needy team here, perhaps even with their Meadowlands roommates, but when the top pass-rusher falls to them they stay put and fill a huge need.
CV: DT Ed Oliver, Houston
The switch to a Gregg Williams' 4-3 defense I think leaves the Jets still wanting interior help on the defensive line. Oliver is no consolation to Williams, he's a good prospect in his own right. They have the size already with Leonard Williams; Oliver adds a speedy disruptor to the mix and fortifies the front.
4. Oakland Raiders
SS: EDGE Josh Allen, Kentucky
Likewise, the Raiders can't pass up on Allen after finishing last in the NFL in 2018 with 13 sacks. 13! The next worst team had 30.
CV: EDGE Nick Bosa, Ohio State
It's all coming up Gruden. It seems the Raiders had a method to their madness dating back to last season and they have a ton of draft capital to show for it. Now, they solve their pass rush problem with maybe the best pure pass rusher in the draft.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
SS: DT Ed Oliver, Houston
The Bucs need another disruptive force on their defensive front, and while Oliver's size is a concern for some, trust Todd Bowles to put him in the best position to succeed.
CV: LB Devin White, LSU
White has all the talent to be in the top-10 conversation but what really sets him apart is his leadership ability. That's something so rare to get out of a rookie but White is already known for it coming out of LSU. In a Tampa Bay defense where communication is crucial, a leader that has the talent to back it up can make more of an impact than the available pass rushers still on the board.
6. New York Giants
SS: QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
I admit to being a bit shaky on this one. I don't think the Giants trade up to get a quarterback, but when nobody else does either and Haskins falls to them, they finally look to the future.
CV: QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
Every time I've picked for the Giants I've said I don't know what they're doing. I have to think the rebuild is on and if that's the case, grab a quarterback to take a redshirt year under Eli Manning in 2019 so he's ready to go in 2020 with full command of a hopefully solidified offense.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars
SS: T Jawaan Taylor, Florida
The run on defensive linemen helps the Jags, who need help on the other side of the trenches and get their pick of the first OL off the board. Taylor can step right in at right tackle and, with free agent signee Andrew Norwell at left guard, give Jacksonville a rugged front for their rushing attack.
CV: EDGE Josh Allen, Kentucky
I could definitely see the Jags taking an offensive tackle here to help protect their new investment in Nick Foles but I think the fact that the SEC leader in sacks has fallen this far makes him too good to pass up. You can always use a pass rusher and the Jags want their defense to return to what it once was a couple years ago to take pressure off the offense.
8. Detroit Lions
SS: LB Devin White, LSU
I think the Lions are thrilled that Tampa Bay went with a pass-rusher rather than White, the rangy, playmaking linebacker they can set next to 2017 first-round pick Jarrad Davis. That's quite a duo.
CV: DE Rashan Gary, Michigan
More than the in-state ties, I think the Lions have a lot of reasons to find Gary as a fit for their defensive line, which came on strong during the latter part of last season. Gary is a versatile player that can fit a versatile scheme like Detroit's flexible 3-4 and he doesn't have to go very far to do it.
9. Buffalo Bills
SS: DE Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
The run on edge rushers starts back up after a brief pause. There's a heart condition to worry about here as well as some previous off-field trouble, but the Bills gamble on a productive pass-rusher with incredible length and speed.
CV: T Jonah Williams, Alabama
The Bills can have their pick at tackle and they could go the Jawaan Taylor route but I really like Williams and think he's the most battle-tested of the tackles available this year. Short arms or no, he's been successful at left tackle and kicking inside at guard is a heckuva backup plan.
10. Denver Broncos
SS: QB Drew Lock, Missouri
Yes, the Broncos traded for Joe Flacco, but they can get out of his deal pretty much anytime they want. Lock is big and strong-armed, so he fits John Elway's profile, and if he needs a little work on his technique and decision-making the Broncos have time for that.
CV: TE Noah Fant, Iowa
The Broncos have a major need at tight end and I think Noah Fant with both his pass-catching and blocking ability will be the first off the board at the position. It really could go either way between him and his college teammate T.J. Hockenson, though.
11. Cincinnati Bengals
SS: T Jonah Williams, Alabama
This is an instant upgrade over Bobby Hart at right tackle and Williams could begin his career there and eventually replace Cordy Glenn on the left side.
CV: [TRADE] Miami Dolphins: QB Drew Lock, Missouri
I think after they see the Broncos don't take a quarterback, the Dolphins move up a couple spots to ensure they get theirs with Drew Lock. It's not the most farfetched thing to think the Packers see the value in Lock and getting Rodgers' heir so the Dolphins avoid that by giving up their fourth and fifth-round picks, along with a 2020 sixth-rounder to make up the 100 points between spots 13 and 11.
12. Green Bay Packers
SS: DE Rashan Gary, Michigan
The Packers have two picks in the first round, so they can get the defensive line help they need here and find another target for Aaron Rodgers later. The top pass-rush options won't last much longer.
CV: TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa
The Packers probably never had any real intention of taking Lock, especially with their need at tight end and Hockenson still on the board.
13. Miami Dolphins
SS: [TRADE] Carolina Panthers: EDGE Brian Burns, Florida State
Everyone expects Miami to trade up for a quarterback, but when that opportunity doesn't materialize the Dolphins do the opposite, trading down for an extra third-round pick because they are in full rebuild mode. Carolina jumps up to get in on the tail end of the run on pass-rushers, especially after Gary goes 12th.
CV: [TRADE] Cincinnati Bengals: LB Devin Bush, Michigan
The Bengals have a real need at linebacker with Vontaze Burfict gone. They'll save money on a contract and on fines by getting a rookie in the draft.
14. Atlanta Falcons
SS: OL Cody Ford, Oklahoma
Is Ford or a guard or a tackle? It might not matter to the Falcons, who are clearly focusing on upgrading their offensive line. Even after they signed James Carpenter and Jamon Brown I still think they would give Ford a shot to start at right guard, which was a problem spot last year.
CV: DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
I'm not thrilled about having to face a D-line with Grady Jarrett on the interior with Adrian Clayborn and Takkarist McKinley on the ends as it is. Wilkins puts it over the edge into downright scary territory.
15. Washington Redskins
SS: WR D.K. Metcalf, Mississippi
Washington badly needs a receiver that scares opposing defenses. Some wonder if Metcalf's otherworldly combine numbers can translate into actual production, but Washington is willing to find out.
CV: WR D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss
When Alex Smith gets healthy, he's going to need someone to throw to. Why not make it the freaky fast and athletic D.K. Metcalf?
16. Carolina Panthers
SS: [TRADE] Miami Dolphins: DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
Miami has needs all over, so the trade down didn't hurt them at all. The Dolphins get an anchor for their defensive line and a versatile player they can build around under new Head Coach Brian Flores.
CV: EDGE Brian Burns, Florida State
Yeah, I'm not happy about this either.
17. New York Giants (from Cleveland)
SS: DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
Would New York have been better off grabbing a pass-rusher at six and going with, oh, Daniel Jones here? Maybe, but Ferrell can still be a productive player for the Giants, even if he's not as flashy as some of the linemen taken earlier.
CV: T Cody Ford, Oklahoma
Well, if you want Haskins to be able to take a redshirt year, you're going to have to protect Eli Manning in the meantime. Ford helps a struggling offensive line preserve the Giants' signal-caller for at least one more season.
18. Minnesota Vikings
SS: G Chris Lindstrom, Boston College
Plug-and-play starter for the Vikings, who have tried to fix their offensive line in free agency but still haven't gotten good results on the inside.
CV:G Chris Lindstrom, Boston College
Lindstrom is touted as being the best interior offensive lineman in the draft and though he got most of his snaps at center in college, he should translate well to guard, which Minnesota could use.
19. Tennessee Titans
SS: TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa
This is a lot like the 2017 draft, when O.J. Howard fell to the Buccaneers at number 19 for no other reason than the teams above that pick were focused on other needs. Like Tampa Bay two years ago, Tennessee is thrilled that a potential top-10 pick and future NFL star tight end falls into its lap.
CV: [TRADE] Seattle Seahawks: CB Greedy Williams, LSU
The Seahawks want to jump the Steelers with Greedy Williams still on the board and a big need at corner. It costs them their fourth and fifth-round picks, but it's worth it to start rebuilding the Legion of Boom 2.0.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers
SS: CB Byron Murphy, Washington
The Steelers need a corner and with the position a little thin at the top this year they end up with their choice of the first one. There's plenty of debate about who the top corner is this year, but Murphy stood out in the on-field drills at the Combine and was very productive at Washington.
CV: CB DeAndre Baker, Georgia
The Steelers don't much mind taking Baker over Williams, who is probably better suited for Pittsburgh's defense, anyway.
21. Seattle Seahawks
SS: [TRADE] Los Angeles Chargers: T Andre Dillard, Washington State.
2018: Seattle trades down from 18 to 27. 2017: Seattle trades down three times from 26 to 35. 2016: Seattle trades down from 26 to 31. 2015: Seattle trades out of 31 for Jimmy Graham. 2014: Seattle trades down twice from 32 to 45. 2013: Seattle trades out of 25 for Percy Harvin. 2012: Seattle trades down from 12 to 15. Are you sensing a pattern here? The Chargers need OL help and don't think Dillard will get past Houston at #23.
CV: [TRADE] Tennessee Titans: WR N'Keal Harry, Arizona State
Hello, draft capital. The Titans could use a tight end but both Fant and Hockenson are off the board. I know people are high on Alabama tight end Irv Smith, and the Bucs know firsthand how good Bama TEs can be, but Mariota just needs someone to throw to and at this point I think the better value is Harry out of my alma mater (shocker, right?).
22. Baltimore Ravens
SS: WR Parris Campbell, Ohio State
The receivers are a bit of a strange bunch in this year's draft, with most of the top prospects looking like combinations of incredible talents and worrisome shortcomings. I think Campbell is one of the safer choices and a good bet to be more productive in the NFL than he was in the Buckeyes' offense.
CV: WR Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
This might be a little bit of a reach, but I keep hearing how much everyone loves this guy. Lamar Jackson needs more options and Samuel gives him a great one.
23. Houston Texans
SS: CB Deandre Baker, Georgia
It's definitely offensive lineman or cornerback here, and after the Chargers make the move to snag Dillard the Texans go defense first and look for help on the line on Day Two.
CV: T Andre Dillard, Washington State
Deshaun Watson was sacked a lot last year. That's all.
24. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago)
SS: RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama
With another pick coming three spots later, the Raiders can afford to use one of their first-rounders on offense, and Jacobs is the consensus top running back available.
CV: RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama
The Raiders still have another pick after this and they've now solved two very big needs already. I said it before: it's all coming up Gruden.
25. Philadelphia Eagles
SS: CB Greedy Williams, LSU
Who knows? Maybe the Eagles end up with the best cornerback of the bunch. Williams was certainly productive at LSU, and he has a nice size-speed combination.
CV: CB Byron Murphy, Washington
The Eagles need more secondary help and Murphy is still available. He's super-athletic and was a ballhawk for the Huskies, recording four interceptions and 13 pass deflections last year.
26. Indianapolis Colts
SS: DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
Lawrence is a good run-stuffer and the Colts play in a division full of teams that have big backs and love to run the ball.
CV: DT Dexter Lawrence, Clemson
The Colts had the best offensive line in the league last year. Now it's time to address the other side of the trenches and another one of those Clemson defensive linemen is still on the board.
27. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas)
SS: LB Devin Bush, Michigan
The Raiders need help all over their defense, and if they get out of this round with Allen and Bush (plus a nifty new running back), they would be ecstatic. And they really need to nail these picks after giving up Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper to get them.
CV: DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
Two Clemson guys in a row. I kind of wanted to do something funky here with Oakland, like take a wideout or something, but with Ferrell still on the board I think the Raiders do the right thing.
28. Los Angeles Chargers
SS: [TRADE] Seattle Seahawks: S Jonathan Abram, Mississippi State
After the trade down, the Seahawks still fill a big need with the first safety off the board. Abram is particularly good closer to the line of scrimmage.
CV:CB Rock Ya-Sin, Temple
The Chargers need a corner and this seems like a good spot for Ya-Sin. He's a small school guy who's big on talent.
29. Seattle Seahawks (from Kansas City)
SS: CB Rock Ya-Sin, Temple
Seattle got this pick in Tuesday's Frank Clark trade, and I'm definitely motivated to trade back again, perhaps with a QB-needy team relatively early in the second round (Oakland?). I can't find a good fit, though, so I'll take this talented if a little raw corner who definitely will hit the way Seattle likes its corners to do.
CV: S Johnathan Abram, Mississippi St.
Well, this worked out for the Seahawks. I had them trading up before I knew of their dealing Frank Clark. They've scored an extra first-rounder now and put it towards what could end up being the best safety in the draft.
30. Green Bay Packers
SS: TE Noah Fant, Iowa
Fant might not make it to this pick, but if he does the Packers will try once again to address a tight end position that has largely resisted their efforts to make it more dynamic through free agency.
CV: WR Parris Campbell, Ohio State
Give Rodgers more weapons so he when he inevitably goes off script, he has a plethora of players to throw to.
31. Los Angeles Rams
SS: DT Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State
The benefit of having a loaded roster with few serious holes is that you can play the long game here with a potential top-10 talent who has to overcome a February ACL tear before taking the field.
CV: DT Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi St.
He's injured but if he weren't, Simmons would have gone much higher. This is good value for a team that has very few needs.
32. New England Patriots
SS: T Dalton Risner, Kansas State
Yes, the Patriots need pass-catching help, but can you really see them taking a receiver in the first round? Yeah, me neither, and the top two tight ends are gone so the Patriots get help up front.
CV: [TRADE] Kansas City Chiefs: WR Marquise Brown, Oklahoma State
The Chiefs gave up quite a bit to get Frank Clark but I think they still want back into the first round to grab Hollywood Brown for Mahomes and I definitely think the Patriots are willing to part with their last pick. They get their bread and butter in the later rounds anyway. It costs KC a pair of third-rounders: one in this year's draft (which they swapped with Seattle) and next year's, which will probably still be in the later part of the round.
Now that we're done with the round, let's answer a few lingering questions.
Who do you surprisingly have dropping out of the first round?
SS: I didn't find a landing spot for Duke quarterback Daniel Jones, and that bothers me a bit because we all know how the quarterbacks tend to rise when we get to the business of actual drafting. I could have given him to Miami, Washington or even Cincinnati, or to Oakland with one of their two later picks. And, as I mentioned above, the Giants could take Jones with their second pick if they would rather get in on the D-Line feast at the top of the draft.
CV: Due to some rumors swirling earlier this week, I have Mississippi State's Montez Sweat dropping all the way out of the first round due to his medical flags. He'll still definitely get picked up, but with how deep this draft is in edge rushers and defensive linemen, I don't think teams find it worth it to take him with their first pick anymore. I'd be willing to bet he goes in the second round, though. Probably high, too.
Which pick in the second half of the round are you most confident about?
SS: I really like the pairing of Pittsburgh and a cornerback but if they are indeed the first team to pick at the position they could chose Baker or Williams instead of Murphy. You'll find the Josh Jacobs-to-Oakland idea in a lot of mock drafts, but it almost seems _too_easy. So I guess my answer is Chris Lindstrom to the Vikings. It's such an obvious need and the back of the first round is where you would expect to see the first interior linemen go.
CV: This is probably weird to say but I think Josh Jacobs to the Raiders is a pretty safe bet (if anything can be safe with them). I've heard Gruden talk about how much he likes him and they just simply can't get by with Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin in that offense.
The Bucs stayed put at pick number five in both drafts; how likely do you think it is that they actually trade down on Thursday night?
SS: I actually think there's a very good chance, but it would have to be with a team that isn't too much farther down the round. I could see a smaller trade that maybe lands an extra second or third-round pick, but not one of those deals like the Packers trading all the way from 14 down to 27 last year and picking up a first-round pick in the next draft. I think the real question is, would the Bucs be more or less likely to seek out a deal if a second quarterback goes in the top four? Would that push a player down to five that the Bucs can't resist, or would it mean they have more options and thus can more safely move down a few spots? I can't wait to find out.
CV: Head Coach Bruce Arians made comments today after the first practice of voluntary minicamp saying a team would have to 'bring the bank' to get them to trade out of the fifth pick. He said he has six guys on his board that he really wants and is guaranteed one of them if the Bucs stay put. I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility, but I also think the chances are slim. You don't trade away a top-five pick with so much talent on the board.