Welcome to The Baltimore Sun’s NFL draft portal. Below are news and analysis from the first round in Nashville, Tenn.
Darnell Savage completes rapid ascent as wide receivers plummet
The Maryland safety generated a ton of buzz in recent weeks, and the Green Bay Packers ultimately traded up to take him No. 21 overall, a huge leap for a player who had been projected as a second-round pick.
Good for Savage, a terrific athlete who could also help right away as a slot cornerback.
Meanwhile, the top wide receivers — diminutive speed demon Marquise Brown and workout phenomenon D.K. Metcalf — slipped out of the top 20. Scouts love the depth of the receiver class but don’t see any single prospect as a complete package. So it made sense for teams to wait until the second or third round to fill their needs at the glamour position.
Redskins need no trade to get their man in Dwayne Haskins
The draft unfolded perfectly for the Washington Redskins. Many analysts assumed they’d need to trade up for a shot at Haskins, a Potomac product who could easily prove to be the best pure passer from this draft.
Instead, Haskins fell right to them at No. 15.
With Alex Smith facing a difficult recovery from a gruesome ankle injury, the Redskins needed to look to the future at the most important position on the field. A trade for Josh Rosen also seemed possible, but they opted for Haskins, who isn’t mobile but can zing throws into the small openings afforded by NFL defenses.
ESPN reported that Haskins was the choice of Redskins owner Dan Snyder while many of Snyder’s football executives preferred other options. Such dissension is nothing new to fans of Washington’s dysfunctional franchise. But in this case, Snyder just might be right.
Ravens shut out on top inside linebackers
Any hopes the Ravens had to find an immediate replacement for middle linebacker C.J. Mosley were dashed when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers snagged Devin White at No. 5 overall and the Pittsburgh Steelers traded up to select Devin Bush at No. 10.
DeCosta said he did not expect White or Bush, two of the best all-around players in the draft, to fall to the Ravens. And there’s not another inside linebacker near their level in this class.
Give the Steelers credit for making an aggressive move to find Ryan Shazier’s replacement. They missed having such a player in the middle last year. Bush is only 5 feet 11, but he races to the ball, hits like a much bigger man and has experience playing in coverage at Michigan. He feels like a player the Ravens will not enjoy facing for the next 10 years.
Giants reach for a quarterback
Many analysts thought the New York Giants might select a quarterback to succeed Eli Manning. But Dwayne Haskins, who lit up the scoreboard at Ohio State with his NFL-ready arm, was considered their most likely target at No. 6 overall. Instead, they opted for Daniel Jones of Duke, who was one of the most divisive prospects entering the evening.
Fans of Jones note the polish he picked up under Duke coach David Cutcliffe, who worked with both Peyton and Eli Manning. He’s a mechanically sound player whose production was reduced by the lack of high-end talent around him. But scouts question his arm strength, and many see him as a low-ceiling talent.
It’s interesting that the Giants went with Jones a year after they passed on the more gifted Sam Darnold. Yes, they got scintillating running back Saquon Barkley in the bargain. But they will eat much crow if Darnold, playing in the same city for the Jets, proves far superior to Jones.
It’s possible the Giants could have taken a high-end defender such as Josh Allen at No. 6 and still gotten Jones at No. 17, but perhaps they had intelligence to the contrary.
Defensive line domination
For months, we’ve heard that defensive linemen would dominate the upper reaches of the first round. That proved to be the case, with a run of three following Murray.
Nick Bosa, who went No. 2 overall to the San Francisco 49ers, has every physical tool you want from an edge rusher and rare pedigree as the brother and son of former first-round picks.
But Quinnen Williams, who went No. 3 overall to the New York Jets, feels like the safest bet in this draft to become a Pro Bowl defender. Williams played against the best opposition imaginable as the centerpiece of Alabama’s defensive line, and no one could block him. You can’t say anyone will be the next Aaron Donald, but Williams has unusually quick hands that allow him to establish leverage against interior blockers.
The Oakland (soon-to-be Las Vegas) Raiders then stunned everyone by selecting defensive end Clelin Ferrell, a player some analysts thought might slip to the Ravens at No. 22, with the fourth pick. Say this for the Raiders; they’re just as eccentric under Mike Mayock and Jon Gruden as they ever were under Al Davis.
Ravens general manager Eric DeCosta talked Wednesday about the differing philosophies general managers bring to the draft. DeCosta never wants to reach for a player if he believes he could trade down, acquire more picks and still end up with a similar talent. But as he noted, some of the best executives in the history of the game have believed that you simply take the player you want, regardless of the spot. That’s what the Raiders did here.
Some analysts speculated that they might look for star power to help them market the team in Vegas. Instead, they took a mature player from one of the best college programs in the country in Clemson.
Murray goes No. 1
The Arizona Cardinals ultimately did what most analysts projected them to do, picking quarterback Kyler Murray No. 1 overall in the NFL draft, just a year after they took another quarterback, Josh Rosen, 10th overall.
The Murray-to-Arizona scuttlebutt gained steam at the NFL scouting combine in February, but intrigue remained until the Cardinals turned in their draft card, with reports swirling that they’d also negotiated with the agents of Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa and Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams.
Some will say the Cardinals should have traded down and selected one of the many gifted defensive linemen in this year’s class. But if Arizona’s new coach, Kliff Kingsbury, believes Murray can be a franchise quarterback in his offense, the team had to make this pick, Rosen or no Rosen. There’s no greater advantage in the modern NFL than having a great quarterback on a rookie contract. We saw it with the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes last season. The Ravens hope they’re set up for a similar run with Lamar Jackson. It’s worth a significant risk to take a shot at that rare payoff.
It’s also a terrific story for the NFL. Imagine a team making this kind of investment in a 5-foot-10 quarterback — even one who snatched the Heisman Trophy in his lone season as a starter at Oklahoma — five years ago. Coaches and general managers have become far more open-minded as they look for the next improvisational genius in the mold of Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers. That’s a good thing for fans of varied, exciting football. Even if Murray doesn’t work out, it will be thrilling to watch him try for the next several seasons.
Baltimore fans could get an early look at the newest No. 1 pick, with the Cardinals coming to town in Week 2 of the 2019 season.