/NFL experts predict: The most impactful rookie class in 2019

NFL experts predict: The most impactful rookie class in 2019

Round 1 of the 2019 NFL draft featured six draft-day trades, pass-rushers and defensive linemen galore, and surprises throughout. Rounds 2-7? That’s where teams will find the real value.

Our panel of ESPN NFL experts evaluates the new crop of rookies, diving into their favorite picks and answering questions about what we should expect this season. Check back every day this week to see more answers:

The topics our panel has hit so far (click the links to see the answers):


Which team’s rookie class will make the biggest impact in 2019?

Matt Bowen, NFL analyst: New England Patriots. The Patriots’ top four selections should all play roles as rookies. Start with WR N’Keal Harry. He fills a need at the position, with the big body to run inside breaking routes and finish on contested throws. CB Joejuan Williams fits as a man-coverage defender with a monster, 6-foot-4 frame and ball skills at the point of attack. OLB Chase Winovich? He’s a versatile edge defender with pass-rush upside. And RB Damien Harris brings a decisive, downhill running style to the Patriots’ offense, with the receiving skills and pass-protection ability to square up blitzing linebackers.

Mike Clay, fantasy writer: Seattle Seahawks. Seattle headed to Nashville with a multitude of holes on its roster and did a nice job adding prospects at several of those positions. To name a few, first-round pick L.J. Collier will need to play a gigantic role on the edge, safety Marquise Blair will compete for a Week 1 starting gig opposite Bradley McDougald, and WRs DK Metcalf and Gary Jennings will immediately compete for major snaps with Doug Baldwin seemingly on the verge of retirement.

Dan Graziano, national NFL writer: Oakland Raiders. The Raiders clearly went into the draft looking for players who could start right away, and at this stage, there’s no reason to think Clelin Ferrell, Josh Jacobs and Johnathan Abram won’t do that. Second-round pick Trayvon Mullen should be in position to at least compete for a starting spot and maybe will win one. The Raiders needed a ton of help, especially on defense, so there’s opportunity almost everywhere for rookies to jump in.

KC Joyner, fantasy writer: Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers were a pass-happy team that didn’t tackle well and often played uninspired football last season. This draft class was selected to help fix that, as linebacker Devin Bush, cornerback Justin Layne and running back Benny Snell Jr. all add an immediate dose of physicality and toughness to an organization that needs a reminder of what Steelers football is supposed to be.

Mina Kimes, NFL writer: Arizona Cardinals. It’s possible that Arizona’s first five draft picks could all see the field early in the season. No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray is the team’s starting quarterback, and because the wide receiver group is so shallow, I think he’ll throw to second-rounder Andy Isabella and fourth-rounder Hakeem Butler right away. In second-rounder Byron Murphy, the Cardinals found a polished cornerback worthy of playing opposite Patrick Peterson. Defensive end Zach Allen and safety Deionte Thompson both have starter potential as well. Arizona crushed this draft.

Jason Reid, The Undefeated: Arizona Cardinals. No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray has the tools to have a massive rookie season in the offense new head coach Kliff Kingsbury runs. Given how bad the roster was last season, the Cardinals’ other picks figure to get many opportunities as well. Look for second-rounder Byron Murphy to challenge starting corner Robert Alford. Murphy loved to hit in college at Washington.

Mike Sando, senior NFL writer: Arizona Cardinals. Kyler Murray alone could make the greatest impact. There should be plenty of playing time for several other draft choices on both sides of the ball, including second-round corner Byron Murphy.

Kevin Seifert, national NFL writer: Arizona Cardinals. The less talented a team is, the better the chance of an immediate impact from the draft class. And no team has more holes than the Cardinals. An offense centered around Kyler Murray, featuring as many as three receivers from this draft, will draw plenty of attention to this class.

Field Yates, NFL analyst: Oakland Raiders. Part of this is a reflection of the incumbent roster, but the Raiders landed — reasonably speaking — four likely Day 1 starters in this class. Josh Jacobs profiles as an obvious workhorse back, Clelin Ferrell helps fill a tremendous need, and Johnathan Abram will be a tone-setter on defense.


Who was your favorite pick of the draft?

Bowen: DT Quinnen Williams to the New York Jets (No. 3 overall). Everything you see on tape with Williams is real. This guy is an interior game-wrecker who can rush the passer. And he has the versatility to play in multiple fronts for new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.

Clay: QB Kyler Murray to the Arizona Cardinals (No. 1). If there was one player in this draft who could immediately change a franchise’s fortune, it’s Murray. Top quarterback prospects often are either prolific passers or super athletic. Murray is both. Props to Arizona for not succumbing to sunk cost bias with Josh Rosen and taking the potential game-changing quarterback in Murray.

Graziano: DE/OLB Josh Allen to the Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 7). What a break for Tom Coughlin’s current team that his former team passed on the talented Kentucky pass-rusher at No. 6 and left Allen for the Jaguars. Allen adds to a position of strength, and being around the star players on all three levels of the Jacksonville defense should only help him fit in and make an impact as soon as possible.

Joyner: LB Devin Bush to the Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 10). John Madden used to say that one or two tough tacklers can make all of the difference on defense, as their enthusiasm for hitting can inspire the rest of the defenders to be better hitters and tacklers. Bush will be that type of tackling and hitting difference-maker for a Steelers defense that hasn’t been the same following Ryan Shazier‘s devastating injury.

Kimes: DT Ed Oliver to the Buffalo Bills (No. 9). I liked the value that Jacksonville got with Josh Allen, but Oliver to the Bills was a better fit. He’s the perfect replacement for Kyle Williams: a strong, explosive tackle who can rush the passer from the inside. Plus, he will finally get to play his correct position.

Reid: QB Dwayne Haskins to the Washington Redskins (No. 15). Shortly before the 2012 draft, the Redskins sent four high-round picks — three in the first round and one in the second — to acquire the second overall pick from the then-St. Louis Rams. They used that pick to select quarterback Robert Griffin III. Obviously, Griffin didn’t work out over the long haul. With the franchise still unsettled at QB, Washington used a first-round pick on Haskins, who obliterated Ohio State’s single-season marks for passing yards and touchdown passes. I get that there are questions about him, partly because he started only one season for the Buckeyes, but he’s a sharp, true pocket passer. And I almost forgot: Haskins has a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder after falling to No. 15. For Washington, this could work out spectacularly.

Sando: QB Kyler Murray to the Arizona Cardinals (No. 1). Murray makes the Cardinals such a compelling team and gives them a chance to have a truly dynamic quarterback. The biggest short-term concern is whether Arizona can protect him.

Seifert: QB Drew Lock to the Denver Broncos (No. 42). Whether he was overrated in mock drafts is irrelevant at this point. The Broncos grabbed a quarterback who has nearly 50 games of experience at the SEC level, with perhaps the strongest arm in the entire draft, at a point in the second round where there is no pressure to get him on the field. He is easily John Elway’s best pick at the position.

Yates: DT Quinnen Williams to the New York Jets (No. 3). I’ll keep it simple: I thought Williams was the best player in the class. Getting him at No. 3 was not necessarily a heist — the Cardinals were all-in on a quarterback upgrade, and Nick Bosa is the same caliber of player as Williams — but the Jets were able to stay in their slot when they were unable to find a trade-down partner to land the star defensive lineman.

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