Wolter/Hagen column: NFL draft full of dreams, opportunities, and potential pitfalls
BY DOUG WOLTER and
Every April, the NFL draft allows die-hard football fans to revel in the unknown. Who will my team take in the first round? Which player will be the biggest bargain? Who will bust?
The first round of the 2019 draft is set for April 25 in Nashville, Tenn. Full-fledged NFL junkies, Globe sports writers Doug Wolter and Aaron Hagen, have had the date circled since December. Our latest draft conversation is hereby preserved for you, the reader, to approve or deride:
WOLTER: Well, here's my list of bargains and busts. Bargains: Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins, Iowa TE T.J. Hockenson, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver. Busts: Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray, Michigan DL Rashan Gary, LSU CB Greedy Williams. I'm not saying Murray will be hopeless, but the little twerp is the riskiest option out there, especially if he's picked at No. 1.
HAGEN: I feel like I should add a disclaimer to my statements before we begin. As an Iowa Hawkeyes and Buffalo Bills fan, I've been looking forward to the draft for a long time. In fact, probably since the Bills were eliminated from playoff contention -- which wasn't long after their 27-6 victory over the Vikings -- I've had this date circled. Having said that, a lot has changed since then. Remember when Kyler Murray was going to play football for a year before starting his baseball career? He is definitely a high risk/high reward player. There's no doubt he's one of the most exciting players in the draft, but he does come with some question marks. For me, it will be interesting what the Cardinals do at No. 1. There are so many options, and nobody seems to know what they are going to do. Do they take Murray and trade Josh Rosen? Do they trade back and acquire more picks? Or do they take someone else, like Nick Bosa, who I believe could make the most impact in his rookie year?
WOLTER: I agree. This year’s draft appears very unpredictable. OK, let’s get to the Vikings, who draft in the 18th spot. There’s going to be a state-wide riot if the Purples don’t take an offensive lineman (Greg Little of Ole Miss and Cody Ford of Oklahoma are popular mock picks). But do you agree that they shouldn’t reach? Remember when they took QB Christian Ponder 12th overall in 2011? He had a pretty wife, but that’s about all he had going for him.
HAGEN: Honestly, I don't see how the Vikings can't take an offensive lineman. I'm not sure they even have a starting unit as it stands. Normally, I hate when teams overreach for players, and Ponder is a great example of why. How they haven't addressed it during the offseason boggles the mind. It doesn't do you any good to pay a quarterback $84 million if you can't protect him. The way Minnesota has spent money this offseason, the options are limited. The unfortunate part is this draft isn’t the best for offensive linemen.
WOLTER: I actually think the Vikings could go defense in the first round. Coach Mike Zimmer can’t get enough defense. I think when he goes to bed at night, he counts his defensive pieces the way other people count sheep.
HAGEN: I'd have trouble sleeping, too, if I was in the NFC North. The Bears are set up to be good for a while. The Packers will be as good as Aaron Rodgers. Detroit, as much as I hate to admit it (especially to a Lions fan), actually had some good signings, even if they are turning into the Patriots 2.0.
WOLTER: It’s always interesting to see where the quarterbacks go. Haskins is intriguing. I wouldn’t be surprised to see somebody jump ahead of the Giants (who draft sixth) and snatch him away. It could be a team that we don’t know is interested in taking a quarterback this year. Like Washington or Cincinnati, or Miami or Denver. We’re being told that the Broncos want to draft Drew Lock. Smokescreen?
HAGEN: I believe Haskins will turn out to be the best quarterback in this draft. With the last few drafts so QB heavy, it doesn’t seem to be that many teams who need a signal caller. I don’t know that we’ll see four QBs taken in the first 15 picks, like some are predicting. One of the most interesting things to me on draft night will be trades. You see anyone making a big move up or down?
WOLTER: Most teams always seem to want to trade down. The Lions, for instance, have been saying outright that they’d like to trade down, which has at least one sportswriter predicting that they’re actually going to move up instead. Reading these NFL teams before the draft is like reading trying to decipher hieroglyphics under water while standing on your head.
HAGEN: I understand why teams want to trade down and acquire more picks. Maybe I’m just bitter after the Bills traded out of the pick that the Chiefs used to draft Patrick Mahomes. Depending on what a team is looking for, I do think there’s room to trade back and still get a great player. Case in point, a year ago, Ed Oliver was a sure-fire No. 1 pick. Now they are predicting a mid-first round slot for him. I think players like D.K. Metcalf, Clelin Ferrell and Montez Sweat are going to be mid-to-late-round steals.
WOLTER: Well, this column is getting pretty lengthy. I suppose we have to wrap things up. Let’s finish this way: Which team is most likely to screw up its draft? I’ll say the Cleveland Browns. They did OK last year, but I still think they’re Cleveland.
HAGEN: I’d love to say Arizona because I don’t know what they’ll do at No. 1. But I’m going with Oakland. While they have three first-rounders, I’m not convinced they will be able to turn them into impact players. They should be able to come out with three long-term starters, but I’m not sure they can pull that off.