The 2019 NFL Draft will not start until April 25, and the 2018 NFL season will not end until the Super Bowl is complete on February 3, but that does not mean draft preparation is not already under way around the country. NFL GMs and scouts are watching college football games, practices, and film, trying to get an early idea of who could be available when the end of April gets here.
It also means draft analysts like ESPN’s Todd McShay are working their way through the draft prospects and trying to determine who could be on the radars of teams when the selection process begins. In that mold, McShay released his first 2019 NFL mock draft this week.
He admits that a lot will happen between now and April, including underclassmen deciding to enter the Draft or stay at school, draft order changes, free agency and trades, and player prospect grades adjusting due to bowl games, private workouts, Pro Days and the Combine. That did not stop him, however, from projecting the first round of the Draft.
Using ESPN’s Football Power Index to set the draft order, McShay has the Arizona Cardinals using the first overall pick on Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa. The San Francisco 49ers then select Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary, followed by the Oakland Raiders picking up Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, the New York Jets using the fourth pick on Clemson defensive end Clelin Ferrell, and the Atlanta Falcons rounding out the top five with a selection of Clemson defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence.
The Miami Dolphins, meanwhile, wait until the 17th overall pick to make their selection, and they use it in an odd manner. Left tackle Laremy Tunsil is under contract with the team through 2019, and the team also still could use the fifth-year option on their 2016 first-round draft choice, keeping him with the team through 2020 - though they could also look to sign him to a long-term contract to keep him around longer.
Ja’Wuan James, the team’s 2014 first-round pick, is completing his fifth-year option this year, but his play seems to indicate the team will keep him as well. Miami could look elsewhere for a tackle, but it seems, with as much turmoil and rebuilding the offensive line needs after an injury plagued 2018, bringing back both Tunsil and James to lock down the tackle positions makes the most sense.
Which is why McShay’s projection of the Dolphins selecting Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor is confusing. Of the pick, McShay explains, “The Dolphins might look to move on from Ryan Tannehill, but there isn’t a QB available here worth the early pick. So let’s fill another need and get the athletic Taylor to help protect whoever is under center in Miami next season.”
With the talk again starting that Miami will be looking for a first round quarterback, despite Tannehill currently ranking sixth in the league with a 105.7 passer rating and ninth with a 8.01 yards per attempt average along with a 16-to-6 touchdown to interception ratio, McShay has the likely two biggest name quarterbacks for this year coming off the board with the seventh pick, the Jacksonville Jaguars adding Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert, and the tenth pick, the New York Giants getting Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
That said, even if Miami is hoping for a first-round quarterback and is out of position to get one, a tackle probably does not make sense. Defensive tackle, defensive end, and wide receiver could all be first-round targets for Miami.
Taylor played right tackle for Florida in 2018, though he did play a little left tackle in 2017. If Miami is looking to allow James to leave and bring in a new right tackle, maybe this pick makes sense. If they see Taylor as a guard and not a tackle, maybe the move makes sense. But, it just feels odd for McShay to give Miami a player at a position where they already have two players they like, while ignoring potential needs elsewhere on the roster.