The 2019 NFL Draft shared an opening night with Marvel’s Avengers: End Game, a film that is projected on its opening weekend to eclipse $300 million domestically, and $1 billion globally. Though the two are entirely different entities, they do share a few commonalities.
Both have been highly anticipated in the days building to opening night by their respective fan bases. Both feature people with unworldly talent and abilities ultimately try to come out as winners in their respective battles. Both provide unexpected twists and turns, going against the grain of the viewer’s thought.
Yet mostly, the ultimate goal is to provide entertainment… and the NFL Draft just may have out-done Iron Man and friends on Thursday night.
All jokes aside, the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft opened with questions right out of the gates. Would Kyler Murray really go number one overall? Would Ed Oliver fall out of the top ten? What was the Oakland Raiders “surprise pick” with the fourth overall selection?
As the night progressed, football fans across the globe watched team after team play the hand they were dealt and take a gamble on a player that in hope, would alter their franchise for the better. In every transaction, there is a winner and loser. It’s simply how life is (outside of soccer and tic-tac-toe), and the NFL Draft takes no exception. Thus, this article was created to identify those who walked away victorious from the first night of the draft, and those who failed to impress.
Winners (and losers) from the first night of the NFL Draft:
Pittsburgh Steelers– Don’t act like you didn’t see this coming, you are on a Steelers site after all. Taking the black and gold lenses off for just a minute, Pittsburgh was able to solidify a top need and jumped ten spots to grab one of the top inside linebackers in the draft, Michigan’s Devin Bush. The price? Aside from swapping picks with the Denver Broncos (Denver moved back to #20) the Steelers gave their second round pick (#54 overall) and a 2020 third round pick. Once thought it was too heavy a cost to move into the top ten, Pittsburgh’s deal looks like a sure-fire bargain to add to what could be the core of Pittsburgh’s defense for years to come.
Washington Redskins– There was a lot of speculation surrounding Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins and where he would be selected. The Washington Redskins coveted Haskins as their guy, and even contemplated trading up for him (per Ian Rapoport). After the New York Giants grabbed Duke QB Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick, the Redskins ultimately had Haskins fall right in their laps, not having to give any draft picks to acquire the player they coveted most… But the Redskins didn’t settle there. Washington jumped back into the first round and traded for the Indianapolis Colts’ 26th overall pick to acquire Mississippi State EDGE player Montez Sweat. The Redskins swapped picks with Indy, ultimately moving up twenty spots in the trade which also included a 2020 second round pick as well. A small price to pay to jump twenty spots and secure one of the best defensive ends in the class.
Clelin Ferrell- Let’s forget for a second that the Oakland Raiders completely bamboozled the entire world and took Clelin Ferrell ahead of big names such as Josh Allen and Ed Oliver. Ferrell was a name that was widely considered to end up in the first round, and despite the immense talent he possesses, Ferrell was not projected to go top five in any mock draft known to mankind. But rather than rag on Ferrell, I’m declaring him a winner for going number four overall and securing what should be a hefty payday for the next four or five years. It will be up to Ferrell to live up to the position he was picked in, and only time will tell if he was worth the high selection. However, Ferrell was drafted much higher than even he anticipated himself, and that’s always a win for a player on draft night.
Dabo Swinney and Clemson Football– If Ferrell hit the jackpot going fourth overall, Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney and the rest of the program earned themselves a lottery ticket on Thursday night by having three(!) defensive linemen taken in the first seventeen picks of the 2019 NFL Draft. With Clelin Ferrell (#4), Christian Wilkins (#13) and Dexter Lawrence (#17) dominating the early parts of the draft, Dabo and his staff can now use this impressive feat to his recruiting advantage, as if winning national championships wasn’t already a convincing argument.
Honorable mentions: Jacksonville for having Josh Allen fall to their lap at #7, Buffalo for having Ed Oliver fall to #9, Iowa football for having multiple tight ends selected in the top twenty.
New York Giants– Giants GM Dave Gettleman not only took the cake for one of the worst first round performances in recent memory, but perhaps baked it as well. A year after passing on Sam Darnold and months removed from when Odell Beckham Jr. was traded, Gettleman needed a strong start to the draft to convince nearly everyone the ship was not in-fact sinking. The results? The Giants start by reaching for Duke QB Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick, and finishes by trading back into the first round to reach for Georgia CB Deandre Baker, with Greedy Williams and Byron Murphy twiddling their thumbs as they wait to be selected. There’s making moves to get “your guys”, then there’s what New York managed to do last night, which was disappoint yet oddly entertain the football world on a national stage.
Green Bay Packers– I was a bit hesitant to put the Packers on this side of the list, but if the shoe fits, you might as well flaunt it. This was in no way on the catastrophic level New York managed to reach, yet Packers fans may walk away feeling disappointed with their initial haul. Rashan Gary looks like Tarzan but produces like Jane, and is one of the biggest bust candidates in the draft. I am a fan of Darnell Savage, however trading up nine spots in the first for a player that had a high probability of being there at pick #30 (let alone a handful of safeties that are similar in play-style) doesn’t exactly make logistical. As good as these two players could potentially be, the Packers find themselves on this list due to the particular path chosen.
D.K. Metcalf– There were rumors of D.K. Metcalf potentially going in the top ten of the draft just a few months ago. Despite testing well at the NFL Combine (bench rep and 40 time, at least), Metcalf was a majority favorite to at least be the first receiver off the board come draft day. What was the knock on Metcalf? A limited route tree, and potential of furthering a neck injury despite being cleared before the combine. There were questions on how much his limitations would hold him back, and we found out on Thursday GM’s around the league weren’t as high on D.K. as most draft analysts were. Metcalf went from a potential top ten pick to watching two receivers (Marquise Brown/N’Keal Harry) go before him, ultimately having to wait for the second day of the draft to hear his name called.
Honorable mentions: Drew Lock/Greedy Williams/Jawaan Taylor for falling out of the first round, Arizona Cardinals for failing to find a trade partner for Josh Rosen and losing trade value by not getting deal done by day one, Montez Sweat for falling to #26.
Baltimore Ravens Sign WR Deon Cain to Reserve/Future Contract
The Baltimore Ravens have signed former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Deon Cain to a Reserve/Future contract, the club announced Friday.
We have signed WR Deon Cain to a Reserve/Future contract.
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) January 22, 2021
Cain spent the last two seasons with Pittsburgh, spending the majority of the 2020 season on the practice squad. He appeared into two games this past season, including the season finale loss to the Cleveland Browns, but recorded no stats.
Cain saw more extended action in 2019, where he appeared in six games and made three starts. He tallied five receptions for 72 yards a season ago.
A star for the Clemson Tigers, Cain was selected in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL Draft by the Indianapolis Colts. He caught 130 passes for 2,040 yards and 20 touchdowns during his Clemson career.
Washington’s Alex Smith Beats Ben Roethlisberger for PFWA Comeback Player of the Year
Washington quarterback Alex Smith has been named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America, edging out Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
After suffering a significant leg injury in 2018 and subsequent infection that nearly took his limb, Smith made his unlikely return to the field in 2020, leading Washington to a division title and playoff appearance.
Smith passed for 1,582 yards and six touchdowns with eight interceptions, but led Washington to a 5-1 record in his six starts. He is the first Washington player to win the award since its inception in 1992.
Roethlisberger was also believed to be a worthy candidate for Comeback Player of the Year, leading the Steelers to a 12-4 campaign and AFC North title after missing the majority of 2019 with a season-ending elbow injury. The 38-year-old threw for 3,803 yards and 33 touchdowns with ten interceptions.
Running back Jerome Bettis (1997) and quarterback Tommy Maddox (2003) are the only two Steelers to have previously been awarded Comeback Player of the Year.
Smith was not the only quarterback recognized by the PFWA on Friday, as Buffalo’s Josh Allen was awarded Most Improved Player of the Year.
Allen made a remarkable jump in 2020, passing for 4,544 yards and 37 touchdowns with ten interceptions. He also accounted for eight scores on the ground.
Not only were his 37 touchdowns seven more than in his first two seasons combined, but Allen also completed a career-high 69.2% of his passes, a ten percentage-point increase from a season ago.
Allen will have another opportunity to demonstrate his jump in play Sunday when the Bills visit the Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC Championship game.
Two Steelers have previously been named the league’s Most Improved Player, quarterback Kordell Stewart in 2002 and running back Le’Veon Bell in2015.
Browns’ Kevin Stefanski Named PFWA Coach of the Year
Cleveland Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski has been named 2020 NFL Coach of the Year by the Pro Football Writers of America, the organization announced Thursday.
Stefanski led the Browns to an 11-5 record and their first playoff win since 1994 in his first season as a head coach. He is just the second Browns head coach to win the award in franchise history, joining Marty Schottenheimer in 1986.
A loaded Browns offensive reached its full potential under the play calling and tutelage of Stefanski, finishing as the league’s third-best rushing team and committing the fourth-fewest turnovers.
Cleveland quarterback Baker Mayfield also took a leap forward in 2020 under Stefanski, passing for 26 touchdowns and a career-low eight interceptions. Mayfield’s 95.9 passer rating was also the best of his young career.
The Buffalo Bills also earned a pair of honors for their outstanding 2020 performance. General manager Brandon Beane was named PFWA NFL Executive of the Year, while offensive coordinator was awarded Assistant Coach of the Year.
The Bills owned the NFL’s second-ranked offense, as quarterback Josh Allen became a bonafide MVP candidate under Daboll. Allen completed a career-high 69.2% of his passes, while also tossing 37 touchdowns, seven more than through his first two seasons combined.
Beane was the mastermind behind Buffalo’s addition of wide receiver Stefon Diggs form the Minnesota Vikings, who proved one of the most successful trade acquisitions in recent memory. Diggs was named a First-Team All-Pro after leading the league with 127 receptions and 1,535 yards. He also caught eight touchdowns.