With the 2019 National Football League Scouting Combine in the rearview mirror and school pro-days occurring over the next month, we look ahead to the NFL draft. You’re probably familiar with a few star athletes going in the first round, from Heisman candidate quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Dwayne Haskins, to the dominant pass rushing prospect Nick Bosa.
However, there are many players going in the first round of this year’s draft which you may have never heard of or known you were watching. Here’s what you need to know about some of the talent projected to be taken in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Quinnen Williams — DL (University of Alabama)
Combine Grade: 6.70 (chance to be a pro-bowl caliber player; No. 1 overall)
In just two years, Williams enjoyed an outstanding college career and dominated the trenches in Tuscaloosa. Keep in mind, Alabama is the most talent-stacked program in the nation and it is unusual for freshman to start in non-skill positions. As a freshman, however, Williams appeared in nine games and recorded 20 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. He built on his impressive year in 2018 as a sophomore with 71 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss (No. 2 in SEC) and eight sacks (No. 5 in the SEC) and a consensus All-American selection.
TJ Hockenson — TE (University of Iowa)
Combine Grade: 6.35 (immediate NFL starter; No. 6 overall; No. 1 among Tight Ends)
T.J. finds himself in position to be drafted by an NFL team in the first round due to his prototypical size at 6 feet 5 inches and 250 pounds. His receiving numbers are deflated due to sharing playing time with another first round talent Noah Fant, but he earned a higher combine grade than his teammate, good for No. 6 of all those graded. Hockenson is a projected first round pick due to the combination of all of his talents, rather than just one or two specific attributes. He is a bully as a blocker, a speedster capable of being a vertical threat, and a reliable target.
Montez Sweat — DE/EDGE (Mississippi State University)
Combine Grade: 6.32 (immediate NFL starter; No. 8 overall)
Montez Sweat transferred from Michigan State to Mississippi State after his redshirt freshman season and saw immediate playing time. In 2017 he posted 48 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks (No. 1 in the SEC) as a junior. In his senior season, Sweat solidified his position as a first round talent with 53 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss an 12 sacks (No. 4 in the NCAA). At 6 feet 6 inches and 245 pounds, Montez Sweat has been an absolute monster and has proven to have the physical attributes to do the same at the next level after running the 40-yard dash in 4.41 seconds at the NFL combine. Expect Sweat to make an immediate impact for his team.
Dre’Mont Jones — DT (Ohio State University)
Combine Grade: 6.01 (immediate NFL starter; No. 32 overall)
In his redshirt junior season, Jones compiled 43 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks and one interception. He played linebacker in his 4 years at Ohio State and decided to forgo his senior year for the NFL draft. In the NFL, Jones will see most of his playing time as a DL/DT due to his size at 6 feet 3 inches and 286 pounds.
Jawaan Taylor — OT (University of Florida)
Combine Grade: 6.14 (immediate NFL starter; No. 20 overall)
Taylor started all but two games in his time at Florida and is a force to be reckoned with at 6 feet 5 inches and 340 pounds. He spearheaded the 2018 Florida offensive line which was one of the best offensive fronts in the country. Taylor has been shooting up the draft board since the combine and is seen as the best tackle in the NFL Draft. He’s come a long way since high school where he was the No. 941 prospect in the country. With a 6.14 combine score, he is expected to immediately be a starter at the NFL level.
Brian Burns — EDGE (Florida State University)
Combine Grade: 5.94 (chance to become an NFL starter; No. 39 overall)
Burns was an absolute monster in his three years at Florida State. Despite the performances by the rest of his team, Burns was both one of the best players in the ACC and in the entire NCAA. In 33 career games, Brian Burns recorded 123 tackles, 38.5 tackle for loss, 23 sacks, and amassed seven forced fumbles.