By: Rajan Nanavati
To borrow a line from National Lampoon’s Van Wilder: NFL Mock Drafts are like rocking chairs; they give you something to do, but they get you absolutely nowhere.
But if you’re a fan of a team like the San Francisco 49ers (who are once again waiting ’til next year), New York Giants (who are once again waiting for Eli Manning to retire), Arizona Cardinals (who have the least talented offense in the NFC), or New York Jets (who could very well go from 3-7 today to 4-12 by season’s end), you don’t really have much else to do right now (though if you’re a fan of the Oakland Raiders, you’d do well to spend your time getting therapy).
It’s a good thing nearly all of those teams have a “quarterback of the future” on their roster (my apologies to the additional kick to the gonads for fans of the Giants and Raiders), because there isn’t anything close to what we saw in the 2018 NFL Draft in next spring’s draft.
Rather, if 2018 was the year of the quarterback (as far as the NFL Draft), the there’s no question that 2019 is the year of the defensive lineman. That’s rather ironic, considering we’re in the midst of an NFL season that’s set to break all sorts of scoring records, but here we are. This past spring, we saw five defensive linemen taken in the first round of the draft; this year, we could very well see that many taken among the top 10 to 12 picks.
Even before the college football season started, we knew that defensive ends Nick Bosa from Ohio State and Ed Oliver from the University of Houston were going to be very high up on draft boards, if not some combination of #1 and #2. We knew that a couple of guys from Clemson, namely Clelin Ferrell and Dexter Lawrence, were going to be in the first-half-of-the-first round mix. That’s four guys already, and we hadn’t even gotten to Nick Saban’s factory of freakshow defensive linemen.
Ironically, Alabama defensive tackle Raekwon Davis, whom many were talking up before the season started, has actually been overshadowed by one of his own teammates, while still having a stellar season. Fellow defensive lineman QuinnenWilliams has been a one-man wrecking crew for anyone who has the misfortune of playing Alabama this year.
The list goes on. Rashan Gary from Michigan, Derrick Brownfrom Auburn, and Jeffery Simmons plus Montez Sweat from Mississippi State all look very much like first round defensive linemen right now. Depending on how you classify Jachai Polite from Florida and Josh Allen from Kentucky, who are two of the hottest names in the nation, they’re in the mix, too.
There’s an interesting symmetry in the fact that, in a league that’s so heavily tilted in favor of the quarterback, the position that’s largely responsible for hunting opposing quarterbacks will be so highly represented in this upcoming draft.
It might not appease the fantasy football aficionados, but next year’s draft could have a very substantial impact on the league – just not on the side of the football you’d ordinarily think of.