NASHVILLE — Musings, observations and the occasional insight as day two of the 2019 NFL Draft unfolded Friday on the crowded streets of the city that has this week richly earned its nickname of NashVegas….
* Wow, what a shocker: The Cardinals pretty quickly struck a second-round deal with Miami to ship the Dolphins their superfluous starting quarterback, Josh Rosen. Who saw that coming? (Almost everyone). And to those who actually believed Arizona might elect to hold onto Rosen and keep him around to compete with No. 1 overall pick, Kyler Murray, I’ve got some swamp land in the desert to sell you.
Remember how frustrated Rosen was that he lasted until No. 10 in last year’s draft, being only the fourth quarterback selected? On draft night he said he hated the wait but realized he fell to the perfect spot and vowed to make the nine teams that passed on him realize and regret their mistake. “There were nine mistakes (made) ahead of me,’’ Rosen said, rather brazenly.
Well this time he really did fall into the right situation, even if it took an entire year to materialize. Because where in the entire NFL these day is there more potential to seize a starting quarterback opportunity and make it yours than Miami, where the Dolphins have only journeyman passer Ryan Fitzpatrick ahead of you?
Rosen to Miami in a trade made all kind of sense after both the Giants and Washington selected first-round quarterbacks Thursday night, and the idea of him coming to the AFC East and the Dolphins with a clean slate is a nice way to put a nightmarish rookie season in Arizona in the past. And it doesn’t hurt a bit that Miami hired former Colts and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell as their assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach. Caldwell has been a positive influence on many of the quarterbacks he has worked with in the NFL, from Peyton Manning on.
Here’s an early call I’m willing to make: the more-motivated-than-ever Rosen will be the Dolphins starter by Week 5 at the latest, and the preseason story line of Miami tanking the 2019 season away will be tested somewhat by Rosen’s strong play. If there’s one thing we know about Fitzpatrick, fast starts aside, it’s that the more he plays, the more he proves he’s best suited to the backup role.
And consider this as Rosen becomes a Dolphin: With the Jets selecting Sam Darnold at No. 3 and the Bills taking Josh Allen at No. 7 a year ago, Rosen makes it three of the four top-10 quarterbacks drafted in 2018 who will play in the AFC East this season. Every team but New England has one of them, and only Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield bucks that trend. Let the youngsters mount their challenges to the throne that Tom Brady has owned in the division for almost two decades.
* Speaking of quarterbacks who didn’t go as high as first projected and now have something to prove, the Broncos eventually got around to drafting Missouri quarterback Drew Lock Friday night.
I had Denver trading up with the Patriots to take Lock at No. 32 in the first round of my final mock draft, and that almost happened. Almost, that is, if you stretch and allow me to claim credit when the Broncos traded up with Cincinnati at No. 42 to stop Lock’s fall.
Like Rosen a year ago, Lock admitted he was stunned and hurt that he didn’t go earlier and vowed to play with a chip on his shoulder once he gets to Denver. He called Thursday “a rough day,’’ but then pivoted to “but the sun came up today and I’m a Denver Bronco.’’
“Oh, it added a whole lot, for sure,’’ Lock said. “It added a whole lot of chips to the shoulder. It’s more like a full Pringles (can) now. There’s a lot of chips in it.’’
The Broncos apparently felt the need to get to that slot because both No. 43 Detroit and No. 44 Green Bay reportedly both had interest in him and had visited with the ex-Tigers passer. Denver had made it known it was interested in Lock since the very start of draft season, and it finally got its man, without having to spend lavishly on him. Many mocks had Lock going to Denver at No. 10, but the Broncos were determined to build around newly acquired veteran quarterback Joe Flacco this year, drafting Iowa tight end Noah Fant at No. 20 to add a key weapon in the passing game (after a trade down to No. 20 with Pittsburgh).
We knew Broncos football czar John Elway couldn’t resist taking at least one quarterback. The man collects them like seashells. So it’s a second round pick for Lock, to go with the first-rounder Elway spent on Paxton Lynch in 2016, the second-rounder he sunk into Brock Osweiler, the seventh-rounder he paid for Trevor Siemian, and the free-agent deal he handed to Case Keenum last year. None of which produced a long-term starter for Denver. Now it’s Flacco and Lock’s turn to try and stop the revolving door at the game’s most pivotal position.
“I got behind a really good quarterback now, who’s won a Super Bowl,’’ said Lock, of Flacco, the ex-Raven. “I get to pick his brain and figure out what it takes to be a really good quarterback like him.’’
Or like Elway. “He was really excited, excited that I was going to be a Denver Bronco,’’ Lock said of Elway. “And looking back on it, when one of the best quarterbacks of all time wants you to come play quarterback for his organization — and not only his organization, but the team he played for — it’s just pretty surreal.’’
* It’s really not like Bill Belichick to give up sensitive draft information, so we’re left only to deduce that the Patriots longtime head coach is slipping as he turned 67 this month. Not really. But Belichick did rather candidly signal his draft intentions to a degree a few weeks back, when he noted that all the big, tall receivers in the NFL were going to require bigger, taller defensive backs in coverage.
Presto, the Patriots traded up to the Rams’ No. 45 spot to select 6-foot-4 Vanderbilt cornerback Joejuan Williams. Cornerback was far from New England’s most pressing need, but Williams is a weapon that Belichick will no doubt employ in any number of ways in coverage, be it at cornerback or elsewhere.
“When I heard (what Belichick said) it was definitely something that was a true statement,’’ Williams said in press conference here in Nashville, where he was born and raised, growing up in project housing with his mother and a sibling. “But at the end of the day, you know how the draft works, you just wait to see where the cards fall, and I’m just glad I’m here.’’
While Williams said he didn’t take Belichick’s comments as proof that he was on New England’s radar screen, he is eager to be used however the Patriots see fit against the bigger receivers in the league.
“At the end of the day I feel like I can run, cover and hit and you’re getting a complete package,’’ Williams said. “You’re getting a person who is unselfish and who will play anywhere the team asks him to. I just want to contribute.’’
Being drafted in his hometown added to the specialness of the memory, Williams said. The sight of lower Broadway packed to the gills with thousands of football fans as he took the NFL Draft stage was indelible.
“Man, that was a beautiful sight, that was such a beautiful sight,’’ Williams said. “I’ve got to find some pictures of it because it was so beautiful. I’m from here, and seeing Broadway and not having to go far, it was just a beautiful sight.’’
* When Kansas City chose Georgia receiver Mecole Hardman 56th overall, some saw it as a sign the Chiefs know they’re not going to have Tyreek Hill on the field in 2019, or perhaps ever again. Hill, who now faces further investigation on potential child abuse allegations by the legal authorities in Kansas City, is at the least looking at an indefinite suspension by the NFL.
NFL Network analyst Joel Klatt might have spoken for many of us after the Chiefs’ pick of Hardman: “Quite frankly I’m hoping this is the evidence Tyreek Hill has played his last game.”
Second that emotion.
* The Bills offensive line has been a bit of train wreck at times in recent years, but what a massive makeover Buffalo has conducted at the position this offseason. It may be a case of quantity over quality, but the Bills have at least been pro-active. The renovation continued early in the second round, when Buffalo traded up to the Raiders’ No. 38 spot to select Oklahoma University offensive tackle Cody Ford, a prospect who many considered a first-round possibility.
The Bills are intent on protecting second-year franchise quarterback Josh Allen and they proved that in free agency, signing veteran center Mitch Morse, ex-Patriots tackle LaAdrian Waddle, tackle Ty Nsekhe and guards Quinton Spain, Spencer Long and Jon Feliciano.
Other than that, they took a stand pat approach. In Ford the Bills have a potential starting right tackle, or someone who could slide inside and provide starting or depth capability at guard.
* Little wonder Clemson has won two of the past three national championships. What an embarrassment of riches the Tigers had when it comes to defensive talent. Clemson had four defenders drafted in the first 40 picks of this draft, with defensive linemen Clelin Ferrell, Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence all going in the top 17 slots of the first round, and the Raiders selecting Tigers cornerback Trayvon Mullen at No. 40, in the second round.
That gives Oakland a pair of Clemson defenders so far in the draft, at No. 4 (Ferrell) and No. 40 (Mullen). The Raiders’ pick continued a run on cornerbacks in the second round. After just one cornerback was selected in the first round, Georgia’s Deandre Baker at No. 30 by the Giants, there was a flurry of action at the position. Four cornerbacks flew off the board in the opening eight picks of the second round, including Washington’s Byron Murphy to the Cardinals at No. 33, Temple’s Rock Ya-Sin to Indianapolis at No. 34, Central Michigan’s Sean Bunting to Tampa Bay at No. 39, and Mullen at No. 40.
* Nice of the Rams and Patriots to cooperate and work together in making the trade that produced Williams for New England. No hard feelings from that Super Bowl thing in early February, apparently.
Taking a page from the usual Patriots’ draft playbook, the Rams kept trading down and trading down Friday night, seemingly punting their way through the draft. Just like they did in the Super Bowl.
Sorry, L.A. Couldn’t resist. The Rams finally made a pick at No. 61, taking highly regarded Washington safety Taylor Rapp.
* Not all that long ago, many evaluators considered Mississippi’s D.K. Metcalf the top-rated receiver in the draft and a certain first-round pick. But not only did Metcalf slide out of the first round, he came darn close to sliding out of the second round, before Seattle stopped his fall, taking him at No. 64.
So what happened with Metcalf? Teams were apparently worried about his ability to run NFL-level routes, stay healthy and produce against defenders who are more savvy and sophisticated than any he saw in college. Which is somewhat surprising, since he played in the SEC, seen as the premier conference in college football.
Metcalf’s game might have its flaws, but it’s a great break for him that he’ll get to play with Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, whose improvisational skills can make any receiver look better. And Metcalf’s ridiculous size clearly helps balance out the smallish Seahawks receiving corps of recent years.
“My life has changed by people noticing what I’ve been able to do with my body. It’s time for me to show what I can do as a football player,” Metcalf said after learning of his selection, according to the Tacoma News Tribune.
* So here’s the long and short of it in terms of two new NFC West receivers. While the Seahawks drafted the hulking Metcalf at the end of the second round, No. 64, the Cardinals two picks earlier used the No. 62 selection they got from Miami in the Josh Rosen trade to take mighty-mite University of Massachusetts receiver Andy Isabella.
Isabella, the Julian Edelman/Danny Amendola clone, goes 5-9, 188 pounds. Metcalf is a well-chiseled 6-3, 228, with a physique that became an internet sensation this year. I like both picks, but Kyler Murray and Isabella are a smaller dynamic duo that I see making beautiful music.
* Smart choice by Carolina, taking West Virginia quarterback Will Grier in the third round, with the 100th overall pick. A Charlotte-area native, Grier was an intriguing prospect in this year’s draft, and the Panthers were wise to try and upgrade their No. 2 position behind Cam Newton. After all, Newton is coming off further shoulder surgery and couldn’t finish the season last year, leaving the starting job to the likes of Taylor Heinicke and Kyle Allen. Approaching 30, with eight NFL seasons already under his belt, the second half of Newton’s career may be well underway.
* If you’re scoring at home — and really, why would you be? — my final first-round mock draft effort was far from the worst I’ve ever authored. Breaking it down, I had eight direct hits of right player to the right team, which works out to a fairly decent 25 percent success rate.
Granted, one of those was a player with the right team, but the wrong slot (Duke quarterback Daniel Jones to the Giants at No. 17, rather than the No. 6 spot that he went in). I also hit the right No. 10 slot for Michigan linebacker Devin Bush, but I had him going to the Broncos there, instead of the Steelers who traded up from No. 20 to nab him.
Overall 25 of the 32 players I had in my final mock were selected in the first round (78.1), but I missed on the likes of Jawaan Taylor, Byron Murphy, D.K. Metcalf, Cody Ford, Rock Ya-Sin, Greedy Williams and Drew Lock.
So informed, you can now return to your daily lives.
* Quirky stat of the first round: Seven different teams didn’t wind up taking a selection, and strangely that broke down to one team in each division except the AFC East, which saw all four clubs make picks. The Jets, Bills, Dolphins and Patriots all took their turn.
The Bears, Cowboys, Saints, Browns and Chiefs entered the first round without a first-round selection, having made previous trades, and then the Colts and Rams both moved out of the lower portion of the round with deals struck late Thursday night. That’s more than a fifth of the league deciding to take a pass on the first round, and that certainly seems to be a substantial amount judging on memory alone.