This draft, like every draft, is about the quarterbacks. Franchise quarterbacks, after all, win Super Bowls, and teams without franchise quarterbacks are forever looking for them. But it doesn’t always work out that the best player in a draft class also happens to play under center. A year ago, Ohio State pass rusher Nick Bosa made a strong case to be the first name off the board. This year, that distinction goes to his former college teammate, pass rusher Chase Young.
Young, you can argue, is even more dynamic than Bosa was for the Buckeyes, but we’ll repeat what we said about Bosa in the months leading up to the 2019 NFL Draft: If you’re an NFL general manager with one of the top selections and you use it on Young, you will sleep well at night because there is no uncertainty in the type of player you’re getting.
Young dominates snap after snap with an explosive first step and wins with with power, speed and smarts. He’s regularly double-teamed — and it doesn’t matter. He moves like a defensive back in space but has some of the best hands in college football to thwart pass blockers tasked with trying to slow him up.
After a sophomore campaign that included 10.5 sacks, 14.0 tackles for loss and a forced fumble, Young has been even better through eight games in 2019; he’s totaled 13.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles. If you only watch one of Young’s games, make it Wisconsin, where he did more in 45 minutes than most college players will do in a career: four sacks, five tackles for loss, two forced fumbles.
From the perspective of early November, Young probably won’t be the first overall pick, but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be.
These rankings are our top 30 players averaged with the top 30 players as rated by CBS Sports draft analysts Chris Trapasso, Josh Edwards and R.J. White. Before we continue, here’s an explanation about our rating scale at CBS Sports.
|96-100||Best in class||Hall of Fame||Calvin Johnson, Andrew Luck, Quenton Nelson|
|90-95||Round 1 locks||All-Pro||Jalen Ramsey, Matt Ryan, Devin Bush|
|80-89||Top 75||Long-term starter||Riley Reiff, Dalvin Cook, Reggie Ragland, Drew Lock|
|70-79||Top 150||Chance to start||James White, Cardale Jones, Carl Lawson, Riley Ridley|
|60-69||Top 400||Role player||Beau Allen, Jesse James, Chad Kelly, Jakobi Meyers|
|50-59||Top 1000||Roster depth||Undrafted free agents, XFL players|
Anything can happen with an NFL career, but the players in this range appear to have Hall of Fame potential and should be considered a level above the rest of the prospects in their class.
At the top end, these are the “best players available” who should fit on almost any team. At the lower end, we’re still talking about sure first-rounders who are likely to have long NFL careers.
You’ll get a few breakouts who belong a level higher, but largely this is for fringe first-rounders or Day 2 locks who have a few red flags but are quality prospects.
A good spot for sleepers who can explode in right situation, but this group will mostly be fighting to keep their jobs for most of their careers.
Will either be drafted on Day 3 or land a camp job as UDFA, but will have to battle for a bigger role and the shot to stay in the league.
Unlikely to be drafted, will have to wow in camp to stick with an NFL team.
Name, Position, School, Rating
We talked about Young above but his teammate Okudah is also one of the best athletes in this draft class. He’s long, fast and excels in man coverage, which is exactly what NFL teams are looking for in their cornerbacks. Jeudy entered the season as our WR1 and that hasn’t changed, even though he has to share the spotlight with Henry Ruggs III and DeVonta Smith at Alabama. He’s electric with the ball in his hands and his small-area change of direction will blow your mind. Thomas was dominant in 2018 and he’s picked up where he left off, dominating in 2019 too. He’s a cornerstone player who you can plug into the offensive line and not have to worry about for a decade. Tagovailoa came into this season facing huge expectations — and he’s somehow exceeded them. There are questions about his arm strength and durability but he does everything else at a high level — accuracy on short, intermediate and deep balls, ability to move in the pocket, and he’s even more dangerous when he’s forced to make plays outside the pocket.
Burrow is one of the best stories of the season. He was a Day 3 pick in September and has made himself into one of the top two passers in this class. He’s benefited by playing in Joe Brady’s offense at LSU but Burrow is also making NFL throws every single week while also minimizing many of the mistakes that plagued him early in his career. Simmons is a physical freak who can play just about anywhere; he reminds us of a bigger version of Derwin James and it’s his versatility that makes him so attractive. Delpit can line up anywhere — in center field, the slot, near the line of scrimmage, off the edge — and wherever he ends up he consistently makes plays. Lamb, pound for pound, is the strongest receiver in college football and he is a YAC monster, averaging 22.7 YPC. Kinlaw, who has five sacks and five tackles for loss in nine games this season, is regularly in the backfield and is a huge disruption in both the run and pass game.
Epenesa had a breakout 2018 season as a part-time player and while he hasn’t found that success yet in 2019 he has all the tools. Ruggs is the fastest player on Alabama’s roster who excels and taking short and intermediate throws to the house. Brown can take over games (just watch the first half of the LSU matchup for proof) and he’s one of the strongest players in this class. Fulton would have been in the first-round conversation had he decided to declare a year ago and he remains a shutdown corner. Wirfs can play either tackle position and like Thomas is one of the cleanest O-linemen in college football.
Swift is our RB1 and he’s a threat as both a runner and receiver. Murray fits the mold of undersized inside linebacker with sideline-to-sideline speed and the ability to cover tight ends and running backs in coverage. It sounds silly to say but Higgins is flying under the radar in this receiver draft class. Still, he’s one of the best high-point receivers and excels at the back-shoulder catch. Gross-Matos has gotten better each season and while he still has room to grow he exhibits all the traits NFL teams look for in a premier edge rusher. Shenault lines up all over the field — in the slot, offset tight end, H-back, quarterback. He has strong hands — he’s made a living out of plucking the ball out of the air with a defender draped all over him — and can win at every level. Think a stronger, more physical N’Keal Harry.
Eason looks like an NFL quarterback with an NFL arm. And while he’s had his moments this season he also lacks experience after sitting out much of the previous two seasons before coming to Washington. McKinney is stronger, faster and more explosive than former Alabama teammate Deionte Thompson, and he’s much more versatile. Biadasz has few flaws and would’ve been a first-rounder if he declared for the 2019 draft. He plays center at Wisconsin but has the versatility to move to guard if needed. Henderson hasn’t been quite as good this season as last but he’s an athletic, long playmaker. Okwara, who plays bigger than his listed 240 pounds, has a quick first step around the edge and has the athleticism to sink his hips and blow past the offensive tackle. He’s quick-twitch explosive, not easily blocked, and even when he doesn’t get to the quarterback his hands are up trying to make a play.
Reagor has gotten off to a slow start to the 2019 campaign but he’s electric with the ball in his hands. A season ago he had 72 receptions with 11 total touchdowns and he’s also a threat in the return game. Hall suffered an ankle injury earlier in October but he came into the season as our CB1. He’s a tall, physical corner who isn’t afraid to gamble. Last season Hall played mostly off-coverage in zone looks but showed the instincts and athleticism to come off his responsibility to make plays. At 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, Diggs has the prototypical size and speed for today’s NFL cornerback and he has the strength, speed and athleticism that coaches and GMs covet. Don’t be fooled by his size, Taylor can fly — and he can also stop on a dime to send would-be tacklers flying. Arm tackles are useless against him and he can contribute in the passing game too. A year ago at this time and Herbert would’ve been the first quarterback selected. But he returned to Oregon where his numbers have improved but he still struggles to consistently complete the NFL throws he’ll face every week next season. Herbert has all the physical talent in the world but until he starts playing with more consistency, he’ll be at least a distant third in the quarterback conversation behind Tua and Burrow.