The NFL's lying season is in full swing. Public misdirection and private discussions help set the table for April's draft in Nashville, Tennessee.
No reason exists to believe anything an organization or one of its representatives says between now and the event. Every move and public statement stems from a franchise working an angle.
This is what makes parsing team interest in prospects so enjoyable. Competitive advantages are gained and lost on a daily basis regarding talent evaluation and acquisition. Squads are jockeying to place themselves in position to sign, trade for or draft certain individuals.
The process began during the offseason's all-star games and will ratchet up at the Feb. 26-March 4 combine in Indianapolis.
The game is afoot.
1. Arizona Cardinals: QB Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
Josh Rosen is the Arizona Cardinals' guy.
Or is he?
The Cardinals should be less worried about making statements and more concerned about building the team in Kliff Kingsbury's image. Everything starts at quarterback, of course.
Rosen is a quality prospect and, in most cases, he would be the right guy to build a franchise around. He's not the right guy for Arizona based on its trajectory. Kingsbury knows Oklahoma's Kyler Murray is the right choice for the No. 1 overall pick.
"Here's the thing—we don't know what Kliff Kingsbury is going to want or how much control he'll have," an AFC personnel director told Bleacher Report's Matt Miller. "But he didn't draft Josh Rosen [last year], and he isn't tied to him. If he wants Kyler, he can get him."
Murray is listed at 5'10" and 195 pounds—the quarterback's agent, Erik Burkhardt, said on Comeback SZN that Murray weighs 205 pounds—so questions exist about whether or not he can handle the NFL's physicality, but his combination of arm talent, athleticism to work inside and outside the pocket and understanding of the Air Raid passing concepts Kingsbury wants to implement make him the ideal choice.
2. San Francisco 49ers: Edge Nick Bosa, Ohio State
The San Francisco 49ers could select a first-round defensive lineman for the fourth time in the last five drafts.
Franchises aren't fond of allocating so many resources to one position group. Sometimes they're forced to do so based on circumstances.
The 49ers, for example, expected to compete for a playoff spot in 2018, but they earned the second overall pick after major injuries to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon.
An opportunity now exists to select an elite prospect.
Ohio State's Nick Bosa is the best non-quarterback prospect in the class. The 6'4", 263-pound defensive end didn't make it through the first month of the collegiate season before he suffered a core injury that required surgery. He's now healthy and ready to compete at the combine, per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area.
Like his brother, Joey, Bosa is a complete edge defender with ample power at the point of attack, the athleticism to rush the passer and polished technique. His inclusion to the 49ers lineup would allow him to play rush end, while Solomon Thomas can return to base end on early downs.
3. New York Jets: Edge Josh Allen, Kentucky
The New York Jets hired Adam Gase as their head coach to develop and maximize last year's third overall pick, quarterback Sam Darnold. Darnold needs help, but it won't come with this year's third overall pick. The upcoming class is loaded with defensive talent, particularly at the top.
New York hasn't featured a great edge-rusher in quite some time. Calvin Pace was the last to register 10 sacks and did so during the 2013 campaign.
On defense, Gase hired Gregg Williams to serve as coordinator. A transition will occur under the ultra-aggressive play-caller. But he benefitted greatly from two standout defensive linemen, Myles Garrett and Aaron Donald, at his last two stops.
The Jets already have Leonard Williams along the interior. Kentucky's Josh Allen can step into the lineup and help give Williams a talented inside-outside combination to create pressure. Allen earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors after registering 17.0 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss.
The collegiate outside linebacker will put his hand in the dirt or work as a standup defensive end.
4. Oakland Raiders: DT Quinnen Williams, Alabama
Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams can make a strong case to become the No. 1 overall pick. How high he goes depends on how organizations value interior defenders compared to other positions.
Williams is the complete package. The 6'4", 295-pound defensive tackle led all interior defenders with 52 stops and finished first among SEC interior defenders with 55 quarterback pressures, according to Pro Football Focus.
"I'm just really not thinking about going No. 1, No. 2," Williams said on SiriusXM NFL Radio (via Pro Football Talk's Josh Alper). "I just want to be the best player that I can be for that team that I'm on and just create my craft."
The Oakland Raiders face a franchise-defining draft with three first-round picks after they traded Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper. Head coach Jon Gruden and new general manager Mike Mayock can't afford to miss on any of these picks.
Williams would give the Raiders a potentially dominant interior force to pair with Maurice Hurst and the chance to build the team's foundation around two highly disruptive and pocket-collapsing defensive tackles.
5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: OT Jonah Williams, Alabama
The fifth overall pick will likely serve as a critical juncture for the rest of the top 10 and possibly the entire first round.
The quarterback-needy New York Giants own the sixth pick. So, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers hold plenty of leverage over other organizations that want to leapfrog the Giants to select a signal-caller.
If the Bucs stand pat, an offensive tackle to protect Jameis Winston will be vitally important after Bruce Arians' hire as head coach. Arians' offensive approach requires the quarterback to regularly take seven-step drops without max protection.
Furthermore, left tackle Donovan Smith will be a free agent. One the right side, Demar Dotson is entering the last year of his contract and turns 34 years old in October.
Alabama's Jonah Williams doesn't quite fit the mold some teams want in a left tackle, but his technique and consistency in protecting the blind side are undeniable. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams allowed only one sack and three quarterback hits over the last two seasons.
6. New York Giants: QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
The Giants must find Eli Manning's heir apparent. Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins, a New Jersey native, wants to play for Big Blue.
"I would love it," Haskins said, per Newsday's Tom Rock. "I grew up watching Eli Manning back when he had [Jeremy] Shockey and [Amani] Toomer and Plaxico [Burress]. I loved that team."
It's a perfect match. Unless it isn't. Haskins isn't guaranteed to be available with the sixth pick. The Giants' goal is simple: Do whatever it takes to land their quarterback of choice.
Whatever the price, it's worth it. Maybe New York will be fortunate enough to have Haskins fall into its lap. Can it really take that risk, though?
Haskins is very much in the conversation as the top quarterback prospect alongside Oklahoma's Kyler Murray. A number of teams will prefer the 6'3", 218-pound signal-caller after he set Big Ten records with 4,831 passing yards and 50 passing touchdowns.
A backfield with Haskins and running back Saquon Barkley would have a chance to develop into the league's best.
7. Jacksonville Jaguars: OT Jawaan Taylor, Florida
What the Jacksonville Jaguars do at quarterback once the organization releases Blake Bortles, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, will define their offseason.
With Oklahoma's Kyler Murray and Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins off the board, the Jaguars have two options: Take the next-best quarterback prospect even if he's not considered a top-10 talent or pursue other options to improve the roster.
The latter is the more logical choice. Jacksonville can go after options such as Nick Foles or Teddy Bridgewater while also improving its front five—which fell apart last season.
Jawaan Taylor started games at left and right tackle as a member of the Florida Gators and blossomed on the strong side as a junior. The 6'5", 328-pounder is extremely powerful and plays his angles well as a pass-blocker.
Jermey Parnell already mans the strong side for the Jaguars, but he'll turn 33 years old prior to the 2019 campaign. Jacksonville can release the veteran at no cost, per Spotrac, or it can move Taylor to left tackle if it isn't comfortable with Cam Robinson's progress.
8. Detroit Lions: DE Rashan Gary, Michigan
As defensive coordinator of the New England Patriots, Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia leaned on defensive lineman Trey Flowers to create opportunities as a versatile chess piece. Flowers can play every position along the defensive front and exploit weaknesses.
The Lions defense lacks such a player. Michigan's Rashan Gary has the skill set to foster the same type of flexibility.
"I feel like I'm the best player in the draft, defensively and offensively," Gary told reporters. "I'm the best player in the draft."
Gary might be the class' best player, but he's yet to realize his enormous potential. At 6'5" and 283 pounds, the 2016 No. 1 overall recruit, per 247Sports, started at base end for the Michigan Wolverines. He can do the same for the Lions in a three-man front or slide inside to 3-technique.
Detroit is set to lose its best pass-rusher, Ezekiel Ansah, in free agency. Gary's inclusion would help form a talented trio with Damon Harrison dominating the middle and Da'Shawn Hand providing more flexibility.
9. Buffalo Bills: DT Ed Oliver, Houston
The defense Sean McDermott rode to become Buffalo Bills head coach featured a first-round 1-technique, Star Lotulelei, and an explosive, penetrating 3-technique, Kawann Short.
The Bills signed Lotulelei last offseason, so McDermott's defensive unit requires a disruptive counterpart, especially after Kyle Williams' retirement.
Buffalo is extremely thin along its interior. Aside from last year's third-round pick, Harrison Phillips, Robert Thomas and Kyle Peko combined to play two games last season.
Houston's Ed Oliver is undersized by traditional standards. He's listed at 6'3" and 292 pounds, and how much he actually weighs will be a much-discussed topic at the combine.
Oliver makes up for a lack of bulk with exceptional leverage, quickness and lateral agility. The down lineman moves more like a linebacker. But he spent the majority of his career at 1-technique. His skill set means he will be better suited as a 3-technique with a two-way go.
Even against constant double-teams, Oliver generated 25 quarterback pressures and a 14.5 percent pass-rush win rate, per Pro Football Focus.
10. Denver Broncos: TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa
Denver Broncos general manager John Elway made his decision. Right or wrong, Joe Flacco will be the starting quarterback once the proposed trade, per Adam Schefter of ESPN, with the Baltimore Ravens becomes official at the start of the league year.
Flacco's acquisition won't prevent the Broncos from adding a quarterback prospect, but the need to do so became less urgent. Denver is now Flacco's team. In order for the move to not become a complete disaster, the 34-year-old will need certain pieces around him.
The Broncos already feature two young and talented running backs in Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman. Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton form a solid wide receiver corps. Tight end is the missing piece.
Two of Flacco's best seasons coincided with Dennis Pitta's best performances. Also, new offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello brings an offensive scheme with heavy tight end usage.
Iowa's T.J. Hockenson is a complete tight end prospect. The reigning John Mackey Award winner could work the seam and serve as Flacco's security blanket. He's also a nasty blocker and would help in the running game.
11. Cincinnati Bengals: LB Devin White, LSU
The Cincinnati Bengals have yet to hire a defensive coordinator. Even so, Devin White is an easy projection as the best linebacker prospect in the class.
White isn't a scheme-specific player and is elite in this year's class despite playing a devalued position.
The reigning Butkus Award winner didn't even get an argument from LSU Tigers defensive coordinator Dave Aranda when he asked for advice about declaring early.
"His biggest pitch to me was, 'D, if you were a second-round pick, I'd tell you to come back and improve your draft stock,'" White said, per the Advocate's Brooks Kubena. "'But you're so high, it's hard to tell you to come back because you're so high. And next year, you can only go down, that's how high you are.'"
The Bengals might not even be in position to select White. If they are, the 6'1", 240-pounder fits the definition of "no-brainer."
White is a physical downhill defender against the run and when he attacks the quarterback. He's also comfortable working in space and has the speed to handle sideline-to-sideline responsibilities.
12. Green Bay Packers: Edge Montez Sweat, Mississippi State
The Green Packers are positioned well to address two major needs with a pair of first-round picks. The key is putting together the best possible combination of players.
A pass-rusher or defensive lineman is the place to start since the incoming class is loaded. Green Bay won't be able to select one of the elite prospects, but Mississippi State's Montez Sweat has top-10 potential thanks to an impressive combination of upfield burst, flexibility to turn and flatten the edge, length and athleticism.
At 6'6" and 252 pounds with 35⅝-inch arms, Sweat has the perfect body type to be an outside linebacker and edge-rusher in Mike Pettine's scheme.
The two-time first-team All-SEC performer strung together two impressive campaigns with 29.5 tackles for loss and 22 sacks after transferring from junior college (Sweat began his collegiate career at Michigan State).
Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark are outstanding interior players, but the Packers lack a consistent edge presence whom offenses must account for on a down-by-down basis. Sweat can join Clark, Daniels and Kyler Fackrell to form a versatile and impressive defensive front.
13. Miami Dolphins: DT Christian Wilkins, Clemson
Former head coach Adam Gase tried and failed to change the Miami Dolphins' culture. A year ago, the organization jettisoned Jarvis Landry, Ndamukong Suh and Mike Pouncey and brought in older veterans with winning pedigrees in hopes of jump-starting a turnaround.
Gase received a pink slip after a 7-9 campaign. The team hired Brian Flores to take over and hasn't been shy about its plans to rebuild "the right way," per the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero.
The Dolphins' top priority should be to acquire the right people. Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins is a culture-changer.
"He's interested in a million things. Football is right here, a small part of who he is," Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney said, per NFL.com's Chase Goodbread. "It's important to him, and nobody works harder, but he's a very diverse person. He's either going to be the president or he's going to know him."
The unanimous All-American and William V. Campbell Trophy winner (awarded for academic success, football performance and community leadership) is an outstanding football player who can play defensive end and tackle in varying fronts.
14. Atlanta Falcons: OG Cody Ford, Oklahoma
An investment in Oklahoma product Cody Ford isn't just an opportunity to improve an offensive line. His addition will bring a change in attitude.
Ford doesn't just want to block a defender; he plans to bury him.
Some organizations are OK with position blockers who get the job done. Sometimes, a much-needed boost in physical play is necessary. The Atlanta Falcons need someone of Ford's ilk and are well aware of their shortcomings in the trenches.
"I'm comfortable at center and left tackle in the same way as you said," head coach Dan Quinn said on the Dan Quinn Coaches Show (via 92.9 The Game's Knox Bardeen). "Past that, you scrub every bit of it."
Ford started seven games at guard during his redshirt freshman and sophomore campaigns before moving to right tackle as a junior. He can take over either interior spot or replace Ryan Schraeder.
With new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, the Falcons should implement more of a power approach instead of a zone-heavy blocking scheme.
15. Washington Redskins: QB Drew Lock, Missouri
What are the Washington Redskins supposed to do? They can't go into the season with Colt McCoy and Josh Johnson as their only quarterback options since Alex Smith may not return from his leg injury, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
McCoy and Johnson are long-term backups and journeymen. Neither is good enough to keep Washington competitive in the NFC East and help head coach Jay Gruden retain his job beyond the 2019 campaign.
Missouri's Drew Lock has the most potential aside from Oklahoma's Kyler Murray and Ohio State's Dwayne Haskins. Lock's efficiency is erratic, but Gruden can adjust his system and cater to the young signal-caller's strengths.
Lock lit up college football's toughest conference with his abilities to drive the ball downfield and complete tight-window throws. The 6'4", 225-pounder displays tremendous arm strength, which helped him set an SEC record with 44 touchdown passes in 2017.
If Washington takes a quarterback with the 15th pick, it would help on two fronts. First, a talent upgrade would make the offense better in the short term. Second, a promising rookie campaign would help stabilize Gruden's job security.
16. Carolina Panthers: Edge Clelin Ferrell, Clemson
For the first time since the 2001 campaign, the Carolina Panthers won't be able to rely on Julius Peppers or Charles Johnson as their primary pass-rusher(s).
The transition began last season when Mario Addison overtook Peppers with a team-leading nine sacks. Addison led or tied for the team lead in sacks each of the last three seasons. But he turns 32 years old before the start of the 2019 campaign.
The Panthers can stay within their geographical footprint to find Peppers' replacement.
Clemson's Clelin Ferrell has been outstanding since he entered the Tigers lineup and performed at his best in the biggest moments. The defensive end registered 50 career tackles for loss and 27 sacks in three seasons. He added 56 total pressures and 30 total stops during his final year on campus, per Pro Football Focus.
The 6'4", 265-pound early entrant is a polished pass-rusher with exceptional first-step quickness. But he's a straight-line defender since he lacks some bend and closing speed to consistently turn the edge. While Ferrell is far from perfect, he's only 21 years old and consistently found ways to produce.
17. Cleveland Browns: OT Greg Little, Ole Miss
The Cleveland Browns are finally building toward something after years of varying rebuilds. But last season's 7-8-1 record shows the roster is far from complete.
With Baker Mayfield now in the fold, Cleveland can concentrate on other important areas.
Despite having one of the league's best offensive interiors, neither tackle spot is settled. Greg Robinson is a free agent, which leaves the blind side unprotected. Chris Hubbard might have started 16 games last season, but he struggled to get any push in the ground game and anchor in pass protection. Furthermore, the Browns can save $4.1 million by releasing the right tackle.
In either case, Ole Miss' Greg Little fits a potential area of need.
The former 5-star recruit may not quite have satisfied the expectations heaped upon him, but his movement skills are good enough to man left tackle with the power at 6'6" and 325 pounds to improve the strong side. It doesn't matter which side Little ultimately plays, because he's an immediate starter in Cleveland.
18. Minnesota Vikings: OT Dalton Risner, Kansas State
The Minnesota Vikings offensive line requires an infusion of attitude and toughness.
"You can look at a lot of the statistics. But I think, quite honestly, this football team, in the four years that I'd been here, had that nasty, we're-going-to-win-no-matter-what-the-situation-is mentality," head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters after the Vikings' 8-7-1 campaign came to an end. "I don't know that we had it this year."
Zimmer wants a physical team. He didn't get that last season from the offense. Play-calling became part of the reason behind the change. Inconsistent play from the offensive front didn't help.
Guard, in particular, is an issue since Nick Easton and Tom Compton are free agents.
Kansas State's Dalton Risner started three years at right tackle after playing center as a freshman. Risner dominated. According to Pro Football Focus, the 6'5", 300-pound blocker finished second in overall grade among offensive tackles last season.
Risner is hard to beat in pass protection, but his nasty disposition in the running game is what the Vikings need. The team can slide him inside to guard to build a strong left side with tackle Riley Reiff and center Pat Elflein.
19. Tennessee Titans: WR D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss
The incoming wide receiver class is quite interesting. The group is talented and deep yet lacks a true top-end prospect. Ole Miss' D.K. Metcalf is the closest thing, but he doesn't reach the A.J. Green/Julio Jones standard needed to become a top-10 pick.
This plays in the Tennessee Titans' favor.
Corey Davis hasn't developed to expected levels with a career-high 65 receptions for 891 yards in his second season. Meanwhile, the offense doesn't have any other consistent outside threat.
The Titans offense is limited, and Metcalf's addition can open up the entire scheme. The 6'4", 230-pound (and possibly bigger) wide receiver is a true vertical threat who consistently wins at the jam and can outrace defensive backs.
The physical tools are clearly present, but a neck injury ended his final collegiate season. Plus, his shredded physique might have some wondering if he's becoming too big. Both of these question marks should be answered at the combine.
If they are and the Titans are in a position to select the top receiver prospect, no more excuses can be made for quarterback Marcus Mariota.
20. Pittsburgh Steelers: CB Deandre Baker, Georgia
The Pittsburgh Steelers offseason should be built around one tenet: The organization must find and acquire the best possible coverage corner it can.
Artie Burns has been a major disappointment after the front office selected the cornerback with a 2016 first-round pick. In fact, the 23-year-old defensive back was benched last season for Coty Sensabaugh, who is a pending free agent.
Joe Haden, whom the defense relies on as its No. 1 corner, turns 30 in April as he enters the final year of his contract.
Realistically, the Steelers could be starting over from scratch at outside corner sooner rather than later.
Georgia's Deandre Baker won't be mistaken for the biggest or most physical defensive back. The reigning Jim Thorpe Award winner is listed at 5'11" and 185 pounds. But make no mistake: He's the most fluid coverage corner in this year's class.
According to Pro Football Focus, Baker allowed a 40.2 quarterback rating into his coverage and only 0.46 yards per coverage snap.
Baker and Mike Hilton are ideal building blocks for a revamped secondary.
21. Seattle Seahawks: Edge Jachai Polite, Florida
Undersized edge-rushers who lack length don't usually elicit much excitement. Florida's Jachai Polite is different.
The defensive end is listed at 6'2" and 242 pounds, but he makes up for less-than-ideal measurables with blazing-fast quickness off the edge, the flexibility and pad level to out-leverage offensive tackles, relentlessness and a nose for the football.
Polite led the Gators with 11 sacks and major college football with six forced fumbles.
"He's really explosive off the end," head coach Dan Mullen said, per Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples. "I've been around guys who had some different deals with power and length. [Former Gator] Carlos Dunlap had unbelievable length. I had Preston Smith [at Mississippi State] who had great length with explosion. But not just the pure quickness and the burst ... that I've seen with Polite."
Frank Clark's retention is the Seattle Seahawks' primary offseason goal. Even if the defensive end is re-signed or franchised, the Seahawks lack a complementary edge-rusher.
Polite can be used like Bruce Irvin once was at "Otto" linebacker, since he's athletic enough to work in space and serve as a pass-rush specialist.
22. Baltimore Ravens: Edge Brian Burns, Florida State
Florida State's Brian Burns hasn't come close to realizing his potential even after a 10-sack campaign.
''His get-off and his bend reminds me of Myles Garrett,'' Seminoles defensive ends coach Mark Snyder said before the 2018 campaign, per the Associated Press' Bob Ferrante. ''That's the only guy I've been around that can do what Brian can do rushing the quarterback."
Snyder's comparison isn't far-fetched. Burns led the FBS with 69 total quarterback pressures, per Cover 1's Jordan Reid.
The difference between Garrett and Burns is bulk. Florida listed Burns at 6'5" and 227 pounds. At that weight, he's not an every-down defender.
As the edge-rusher continues to develop and add weight, the Baltimore Ravens are the perfect landing spot, because he won't be rushed into the lineup.
Terrell Suggs plans to play in 2019, according to NBC Sports Washington's Lisa Redmond. The Ravens will have to re-sign the 36-year-old veteran, though. The team could also lose its leading sack artist, Za'Darius Smith, in free agency as well, but Matthew Judon is in place to take his spot.
23. Houston Texans: OT Andre Dillard, Washington State
Washington State left tackle Andre Dillard to the Houston Texas is the easiest projection to make. The reasoning is rather simple.
Defenses sacked Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson a league-high 62 times, while Dillard is the best pure pass-blocker in this year's draft class.
Head coach Bill O'Brien wouldn't call out the team's offensive line during his 2018 wrap-up press conference, though.
"We'll definitely look at every position, and that's...every year is different," O'Brien told reporters. "So, we'll evaluate every position. But again, the one thing about is that there's a lot of things that go into a sack. I've said that, and it's the truth."
The Texans' offseason approach doesn't need to be complicated. Left tackle Julie'n Davenport showed some improvement over Houston's final four games, but he allowed the second-most sacks, the most quarterback hits and most total pressures to that point, per Sports Map's Jayson Braddock. His failures make the entire offensive line worse. Davenport may not be the only problem along the front five, but his performance is the most glaring.
Dillard plays with patience, stays square to his assignment and easily mirrors most edge-rushers in his pass set. He's not going to be overwhelmed after starting three seasons for a Cougars squad that attempted 1,904 passes during said span.
24. Oakland Raiders (from Chicago): RB Josh Jacobs, Alabama
As the philosophical debate whether a running back should be selected in the first round rages on, the Oakland Raiders are in a spot to select the top prospect at the position, help their offense and not worry about it since the organization has multiple first-round selections.
Since Darren McFadden ran for 1,157 yards during the 2010 campaign, the Raiders featured one other 1,000-yard rusher when Latavius Murray eclipsed the mark five years later.
Doug Martin and Marshawn Lynch—both of whom are pending free agents—aren't cutting it.
Alabama's Josh Jacobs never developed into a full-time starter and only ran for 1,491 yards his entire Crimson Tide career, yet he's the top running back prospect because the 5'10", 216-pound ball-carrier is a decisive and physical downhill runner with excellent lateral agility.
"I try to mix it up," Jacobs said, per ESPN.com's Alex Scarborough. "I try to run people over sometimes and then juke them. I want to keep them on their toes."
Jacobs doubles as a natural pass-catcher out of the backfield who can be used as more than a checkdown option.
25. Philadelphia Eagles: CB Byron Murphy, Washington
A team can never have too many cornerbacks, especially the Philadelphia Eagles after their secondary limped through an injury-plagued campaign.
But in the disappointing performance is a silver lining: Multiple young cornerbacks—Avonte Maddox, Sidney Jones and Rasul Douglas—received valuable playing time. Improvement from each should be expected this fall. Plus, Jalen Mills will return from a season-ending foot injury.
Even so, the Eagles could lose their top cover corner, Ronald Darby, to free agency. If they do, the position becomes pressing. The organization learned quality depth isn't easily found if a defensive back or two misses significant time.
The addition of another quality cover corner could significantly help last season's 30th-ranked pass defense.
Washington's Byron Murphy is an excellent cover corner and a physical player at the line of scrimmage. His well-rounded play earned the highest grade of any collegiate cornerback last season, per Pro Football Focus.
Like Georgia's Deandre Baker, Murphy's slight frame (182 pounds) is a concern, but he plays much bigger than his size and presents outstanding ball skills with 20 passes defended during his two seasons as a starter.
26. Indianapolis Colts: DT Jerry Tillery, Notre Dame
Quenton Nelson proved to be a game-changer along the Indianapolis Colts offensive line. The organization can once again tap the Notre Dame pipeline to find a wrecking ball for the defensive front.
Jerry Tillery fits the new breed of defensive lineman. His value is derived from an ability to collapse the pocket and rush the passer.
According to Pro Football Focus, the 6'7", 305-pound lineman finished first among interior defenders in pass-rush grade and fourth with 48 total pressures and a 14.3 percent pass-rush productivity. The defensive tackle tied for the team lead with eight sacks.
Tillery's senior season helped squelch concerns about effort and not realizing his potential.
"Jerry has been a consistent worker," Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly said, per the Chicago Tribune's LaMond Pope. "(It's) his consistency and approach day to day. He's here every day. Jerry does not miss anything. It's amazing. He doesn't take a day off."
Both of the Colts 1-techniques, Al Woods and Margus Hunt, are free agents. Tillery can play over center as an ideal complement to Denico Autry.
27. Oakland Raiders (from Dallas): TE Noah Fant, Iowa
Tight end Jared Cook led the Oakland Raiders and experienced a career year with 68 receptions for 896 yards and six touchdowns. Cook, who turns 32 years old in April, is a pending free agent.
"I just want to be happy," Cook said after an AFC Pro Bowl practice, per The Athletic's Tim Graham. "I think it's important where I'm at in my career to enjoy myself and continue to ball.
"Even though we was taking L's, I found a coach that utilized me. That was fun as hell."
Cook's latter point is critical. Jon Gruden's offense includes a heavy reliance on tight ends. With Cook's potential departure, the position must be addressed.
Fortunately, this year's tight end class is deep and talented.
Iowa's Noah Fant is arguably the most athletically gifted tight end prospect. According to The Athletic's Bruce Feldman, the 6'5", 241-pound target posted a 42-inch vertical, 1.48-second 10-yard dash and 3.95-second short shuttle prior to his final season on campus, which makes him even more athletic than Cook entering the professional ranks.
Fant is a natural receiver who can complement or replace the veteran tight end as a featured option.
28. Los Angeles Chargers: OT Yodny Cajuste, West Virginia
The Los Angeles Chargers need beef on both sides of the ball. The chance to maximize Philip Rivers' final few years takes precedence.
Defenders overwhelmed Sam Tevi once the Chargers inserted him at right tackle. An otherwise solid front five is weakened by the fact one of its parts can't consistently protect an immobile quarterback. Tevi can be a physical and effective run-blocker, but he lacks the mobility needed to consistently ward off athletic edge-rushers.
West Virginia's Yodny Cajuste will have to make a switch from the left to right side, but his movement skills reflect his history as a basketball player.
Like Tevi, Cajuste is still a work in progress. The difference lies in long-term potential. Cajuste's continued growth portends a potential standout starter, whereas Tevi has athletic limitations. A few setbacks are likely to occur with a rookie at right tackle, but it's better than the alternative.
The possibility of moving Cajuste back to the blind side also exists when Russell Okung's contract ends after the 2020 campaign.
29. Kansas City Chiefs: CB Greedy Williams, LSU
Greedy Williams' evaluation may be the most interesting of this year's draft process.
The LSU cornerback displays the fluidity and coverage skills to be a top-10 pick, yet his short-area explosion is questionable and inconsistencies against the run can be problematic.
How teams project the 6'3", 184-pound defensive back in their particular schemes will ultimately determine how high Williams can go.
The physical tools are present, but the level of play to be a high first-round pick wasn't last season. According to Pro Football Focus, Williams didn't finish better than 30th overall in yards per coverage snap, snaps per reception, passer rating allowed, forced incompletion percentage, first downs allowed and overall grade.
The Kansas City Chiefs aren't afraid to take a chance on high-upside prospects with question marks like Marcus Peters and Chris Jones.
Cornerback is a major soft spot after the team finished 31st in pass defense in 2018. Steven Nelson and Orlando Scandrick are pending free agents. Kendall Fuller and Charvarius Ward are a solid starting point, but another outside corner with sticky coverage skills is needed.
30. Green Bay Packers (from New Orleans): TE Irv Smith Jr., Alabama
The Tennessee Titans offense never got off the ground during Matt LaFleur's tenure as coordinator mainly because of a lack of playmakers in the passing game. He could face the same issues as the Green Bay Packers head coach if more talent isn't added around quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Davante Adams is a true No. 1 target. Beyond that, the Packers don't have a consistent threat in the aerial attack.
The Packers still feature tight end Jimmy Graham, but the 32-year-old target isn't the same player he once was. Green Bay can add another offensive weapon by pairing Graham with a younger alternative.
Alabama's Irv Smith Jr. brings a pedigree and skill set perfect for the Packers offense.
"He's big like a tight end but he has skills like a receiver," Alabama teammate Mack Wilson said of Smith, per the Associated Press (via USA Today). "He's fast. He runs precise routes."
Smith, whose father played seven NFL seasons, is a versatile option able capable of playing in-line, H-back or lining up in the slot. The 20-year-old target broke Alabama single-season records by a tight end in 2018 with 710 receiving yards and seven touchdowns.
31. Los Angeles Rams: DT Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State
Not a lot has gone right for Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons in the past few weeks.
First, he didn't receive a combine invite because of an ugly incident prior to arriving in Starkville, Mississippi. The defensive lineman then suffered a torn ACL while training.
Two things are abundantly clear when teams contemplate Simmons' future. First, whatever organization selects the defender must reconcile his past with the person he's become. Second, any potential suitor understands Simmons may not be available for the 2019 campaign.
Generally, a torn ACL needs nine to 10 months of recovery time before a player returns to the field. Based on the timing of the injury, Simmons could return by December.
Even if he doesn't, a team will bank on Simmons' upside. The 6'4", 300-pound first-team All-SEC performer has the potential to develop into a dominant force.
The Los Angeles Rams are in a position where the franchise can wait and eventually form a dynamic duo between Aaron Donald and Simmons, since Ndamukong Suh is 32 years old and a free agent.
32. New England Patriots: QB Daniel Jones, Duke
Who cares about a team's future at quarterback while enjoying yet another title? The New England Patriots do.
Obviously, Tom Brady can still play at a level where another championship run isn't out of the realm of possibility, even when he turns 42 years old later this year.
But head coach Bill Belichick prepares for every possibility. Eventually, Brady's skill set will deteriorate and the league's greatest dynasty will take a step back, unless an heir apparent is acquired and developed to address the inevitable.
Duke's Daniel Jones is a work in progress. However, his skill set meshes well with the Patriots' approach. The quarterback has the natural size (6'5", 220 lbs) and athleticism (17 career rushing touchdowns) to open up the scheme a little bit. Furthermore, he's highly intelligent as a three-time Academic All-ACC selection and mentored by the Manning family guru, David Cutcliffe.
Jones' understanding of concepts will allow him to absorb a complicated and ever-evolving system under Josh McDaniels' supervision.