CHICAGO – I don’t know, maybe it was just me, but as the first round of the 2019 NFL draft unfolded Thursday night, I kept thinking to myself this is not a bad year to be the Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys or Bears, aka teams without a first-round draft choice.
No, I’m not forgetting the Kansas City Chiefs. More on that in a moment.
The unbreakable cardinal rule is we never evaluate or try to judge a draft until the players drafted have played at least two seasons and preferably three.
But what we can do is burn up the phone lines for weeks leading up to the draft talking to general managers, scouts and other evaluators to get a sense of what teams’ draft boards look like and how they have players ranked.
This first round was almost as if, if you didn’t want a defensive front-seven player, a quarterback or a tight end, you might as well take the night off.
I can’t say this has never happened, but I can tell you I don’t remember ever seeing it.
Nine of the first 17 players selected were defensive linemen or edge rushers.
Three Clemson defensive linemen went in the first 17 picks, leaving us to wonder how any team ever scored on the Tigers.
Not a single offensive tackle was taken in the top 10, and after Jonah Williams went to the Bengals at 11, the second tackle didn’t come off the board until the 22nd pick with Andre Dillard going to the Eagles who traded up from 25 with the Ravens to take him.
Two interior linemen, Chris Lindstrom and Garrett Bradbury, went before the second tackle, Dillard.
Strangest of all, there was not a single cornerback or wide receiver taken in the first 24 picks. Marquise Brown was the first wideout off the board at 25 to the Ravens, and not a single defensive back was taken until safety Darnell Savage was picked by the Packers, who traded up from 30 to 21 with the Seahawks to take him.
It is also worth noting that after there was only one trade among the first 20 picks – and believe it or not is was the Steelers, who never do this kind of thing – with Pittsburgh swapping with Denver to go from 20 to 10 to grab inside linebacker Devin Bush. Then the 21st, 22nd, 25th, 26th, 29th and 30th picks were all traded.
Imagine going through an entire evening with Randy Newman singing “Strange Things Are Happening” on a loop, over and over again.
In the lead-up to this year’s edition of the world’s greatest shopping bazaar, as I did my homework talking to as many decision makers as possible, one after another told me this was a draft that just didn’t have enough legit first-round prospects.
One highly respected GM said there are maybe 12 to 14 true first-round prospects, and the rest of these guys you can throw in a hat in the second round.
Problem is 18 to 20 teams had to take one of them in the first.
Big surprises were Clelin Ferrel at four, Daniel Jones at six, Christian Wilkins at 13, Lindstrom at 14 and Alabama State’s Tytus Howard at 23 to Houston.
Again, they may all eventually be All-Pros, but I don’t know anyone who saw these players being drafted as high as they were.
Lastly, we return to Kansas City, where less than an hour before the first pick news broke of a recording of Tyreek Hill and his fiancee, and mother of his son, Crystal Espinal, practically confirming Hill’s abuse of their 3-year-old son.
It is probably a good thing for the Chiefs and the player they might have taken that they had the night off.
The biggest surprise of the evening will now be if Hill is still a Chief when the second round starts Friday night.
Strange night doesn’t say it. All things considered, the biggest winners of the evening may have been the Browns, Cowboys and the Bears not only for landing Odell Beckham, Jr., Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack with their first-rounders, but for getting the night away from all the craziness.
• Hub Arkush is executive editor of Pro Football Weekly. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him on Twitter @Hub_Arkush.