How 2019 NFL first-round draft picks fared, what’s in store in 2020


The 2020 NFL draft is less than a month away. With that in mind, we wanted to look back to last season’s draft and assess how each first-rounder played.

In addition, we will look ahead at expectations for 2020. Will Kyler Murray and Daniel Jones take the next step for the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants, respectively? How about Josh Jacobs? Will the running back continue to thrill Raiders fans in Las Vegas and fantasy football managers alike?

NFL Nation reporters assess how every first-round pick did in their first season and then project what 2020 will bring on this scale:

  • He’s a star

  • On his way

  • He’s a starter

  • Has lot to prove

Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

Analysis: Murray lived up to the hype and expectations by winning NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. His numbers weren’t jaw-dropping (3,722 yards passing, 20 touchdowns, 12 interceptions), but he steadily improved. What stood out most was Murray’s ability to learn and adapt. Instead of taking unnecessary sacks, he started to throw the ball away. When he was losing unnecessary yards, he just sat down. He showed a maturity beyond his years. Next season, Murray is expected to take the proverbial Year 2 leap. He’ll have an even better command of the offense and how to handle the rigors of an NFL season. That could prove dangerous for the competition.

Rating: He’s a star. — Josh Weinfuss

Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Analysis: Bosa was the difference-maker the Niners hoped he would be, transforming their defense by showing off the strength and technique that made him one of the most polished pass-rushing prospects to enter the draft in a long time. Bosa was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year after recording nine sacks and 60 quarterback pressures, second most among all NFL players. The key for Bosa has been and remains staying healthy, something he did in 2019. If he can do the same in 2020, he should only continue to improve, though he will have a bigger challenge without DeForest Buckner lining up next to him.

Rating: He’s a star. — Nick Wagoner

Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

Analysis: It was a nondescript rookie year for Williams, who failed to live up to his collegiate reputation as a disruptive interior force. He finished with 2.5 sacks, six quarterback hits and four tackles for loss. He played only 47% of the defensive snaps, but that actually ranked second among the team’s defensive linemen. It was a learning year for Williams, who has tremendous upside. Not many 300-pounders possess his quickness and athleticism, but he needs to get stronger and do a better job of reading blocking schemes. The physical talent is there; now it’s on him to put it all together.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Rich Cimini

Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson

Analysis: Did the Raiders reach for Ferrell at No. 4 overall? Perhaps — when you consider his relative lack of production, including 4.5 sacks, as compared to fourth-rounder Maxx Crosby‘s 10 sacks. But he would not have been available at No. 24, when the Raiders next picked, and Ferrell did so much more for the Raiders’ D-line with his versatility than any stat sheet would show. In fact, he played much of the first half of the season out of position in the interior. With the free-agent acquisition of pass-rushing tackle Maliek Collins and further development by Maurice Hurst inside, Ferrell can focus solely on the edge going forward as a foundation piece.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Paul Gutierrez

Devin White, ILB, LSU

Analysis: Had it not been for a severe bout of tonsillitis that forced him to stay in the hospital overnight in Week 1 and a sprained MCL in Week 2, White could have been the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year. In Weeks 9 to 17, he recorded 2.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries, an interception and two defensive touchdowns. He forced six turnovers over the final five games of the season. The Bucs are absolutely in love with White’s work ethic and leadership, believing he can help change their losing culture. Few people possess the ability or will to run at 21.8 mph after Chris Carson for 50-plus yards to make a touchdown-saving tackle. White has it all, and he could have a Luke Kuechly-like impact on this franchise for many years to come.

Rating: He’s a star. — Jenna Laine

Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

Analysis: Here’s what we know with certainty about Jones: He is at least an average starter. That is something considering that draft busts at quarterback, even in the first round, aren’t uncommon. Jones flashed enough to provide hope he can become much more than an average starter. He threw 24 touchdown passes with 12 interceptions in 12 starts. It’s simply a matter of whether Jones can cut down on the turnovers (23). Some of that can be attributed to rookie mistakes, but there are NFL talent evaluators who believe it’s an innate trait and his weakness. He should only get better in Year 2.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Jordan Raanan

Josh Allen, DE, Kentucky

Analysis: Allen led the Jaguars with 10.5 sacks and made the Pro Bowl. He slipped to No. 7, and the Jaguars subsequently altered their plan to take tight end T.J. Hockenson. Allen might be the Jaguars’ most important defensive player in 2020 — because the team traded defensive end Calais Campbell, and there’s no guarantee defensive end Yannick Ngakoue will sign his franchise tender or even be on the team. Allen is going to have to carry the pass rush.

Rating: He’s a star. — Michael DiRocco

T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

Analysis: Hockenson was having a decent 2019 season (32 catches, 367 yards, two touchdowns) before going on injured reserve Dec. 2. They aren’t big numbers, but the flashes of potential were there. There’s reason to believe as long as he has recovered from his right ankle injury that he’ll grow in Year 2. His receiving skills were obvious, and his blocking was coming along before he was hurt. As the team’s likely No. 1 tight end, he’ll need to be a big part of the offense in 2020 for it to be successful.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Michael Rothstein

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

Analysis: Oliver took a midseason demotion in stride and turned in the fifth-best pass rush win rate among all eligible defensive tackles last season. He should be the focal point of the Bills’ defensive line next season, when teams will not only have to contain him but also new teammate Quinton Jefferson — who owned the NFL’s fourth-best pass rush win rate in 2019.

Rating: He’s a star. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Devin Bush, ILB, Michigan

Analysis: The Steelers traded up to draft Bush last year, and despite some expected growing pains, he turned in a solid season with two interceptions and four fumble recoveries — including a scoop-and-score against the Chargers. He played 82% of the defensive snaps last year, and he has the added benefit of learning from Ryan Shazier. Coming off a season in which he earned the team’s newcomer award, Bush’s performance gave the Steelers enough confidence to release veteran inside linebacker Mark Barron. The position is a thin one for the Steelers, but Bush is the star of the group.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Brooke Pryor

Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama

Analysis: Williams didn’t see the field in 2019 after surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He was eventually cleared to return to practice toward the end of the season. Given the Bengals’ record, there was no sense in pushing him back early. In his first full season in 2020, Williams will be asked to be the team’s starting left tackle. Offensive line coach Jim Turner has high hopes for the former Alabama standout. Williams is expected to be a cornerstone of that offensive line for years to come.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Ben Baby

Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan

Analysis: The Packers didn’t need much from Gary because of how well the Smiths — Za’Darius and Preston — performed last season. It allowed them to bring Gary along slowly, and he played 22% of the snaps despite being healthy. Speaking of health, his recurring shoulder injury from college wasn’t an issue, so that’s a plus. But the biggest question about him coming out of Michigan — why he wasn’t more productive despite off-the-charts athletic skills — remains a question in the NFL. He played more with his hand on the ground in college, but the Packers tried to convert him to a stand-up edge rusher. They’ve said they remain committed to that, although it’s worth wondering if we might see him play more inside in Year 2.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Rob Demovsky

Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson

Analysis: Wilkins didn’t make many eye-popping plays or impress with a big sack number, but the Dolphins are happy with how he is progressing as a pro. Wilkins led all interior defensive linemen in tackles as a first-year starter in 2019, and he has a defensive tackle spot locked down for the foreseeable future in coach Brian Flores’ multiple defense. Wilkins needs to take a step forward in the pass rush and in his run-stopping ability. That means forcing more double-teams, making more explosive plays and becoming a greater focal point for offenses to stress about going into games.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Cameron Wolfe

Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College

Analysis: Lindstrom’s growth was stunted last season when he suffered a broken foot in the season opener, causing him to miss 11 games. When he returned for the final four contests, he showed signs of being the star right guard the Falcons expect. Former Atlanta tight end Austin Hooper told ESPN he expects Lindstrom to be the best offensive lineman in the league one day. The Falcons need Lindstrom to be a consistent force on the offensive line in a critical must-win year for coach Dan Quinn.

Rating: On his way. — Vaughn McClure

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

Analysis: He will almost assuredly start this season, unless losing the offseason puts him too far behind Kyle Allen‘s knowledge of the offense. But the plan for now is to start Haskins. The Redskins were excited by how Haskins finished last season, saying some of it stemmed from receiving more intense attention from the coaching staff. He posted a combined 73.0 total QBR in his final two starts and didn’t look as lost as he had earlier in the campaign. But the Redskins have not promised him anything. While they often praise his talent, they want to learn more about his leadership and work ethic.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — John Keim

Brian Burns, DE, Florida State

Analysis: His rookie season was hampered by a right wrist injury suffered — this is true — when he banged his fist on the turf after narrowly failing to block a punt during a game early in the season. He was hindered by having to wear a protective device, but Burns still had 7.5 sacks. He was signed by the former staff to be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, but as the season went along, he also played end in a 4-3 — as he did at Florida State. With veterans Mario Addison and Bruce Irvin gone in free agency, Burns will get a chance to become a full-time starter and a legitimate pass-rushing star.

Rating: On his way. — David Newton

Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

Analysis: Lawrence had a strong rookie season in the middle of the Giants’ defense. He had 38 tackles, 2.5 sacks and nine quarterback hits. Pro Football Focus had him rated as the 19th-best interior defensive linemen, tops of all rookies. Lawrence should only get better this season. Playing alongside Leonard Williams on a strong defensive line should only help. Lawrence’s ceiling will be determined by his ability to get after the quarterback. It was pedestrian as a rookie. His 5.3% quarterback pressure rate tied him for 43rd among all interior linemen, per NFL Next Gen Stats.

Rating: On his way. — Jordan Raanan

Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State

Analysis: Bradbury had the type of season you’d expect from a rookie facing the likes of Grady Jarrett, Akiem Hicks and Kenny Clark. Pass blocking was a struggle at times (26 total pressures allowed, including four sacks) for the young center, who was drafted with the intention of filling an immediate need. Minnesota knew there would be ups and downs for Bradbury, who was long considered slightly undersized for the position — even in a zone-blocking scheme — throughout the draft process. But that’s why the outlook for him in 2020 and beyond is promising. Another year to develop in an NFL weight-training program and the experience gained calling 18 games as a rookie will help him as his career progresses. Bradbury is still a work in progress, but he is headed in the right direction.

Rating: On his way. — Courtney Cronin

Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

Analysis: Simply having Simmons playing as a rookie was a win for the Titans after he tore his ACL during training before the draft. Simmons had an impact from the moment he took the field with his first career sack in Week 7 against the Chargers. He finished with two sacks and 32 tackles, including four tackles for loss, but Simmons’ impact went beyond the stat sheet. Simmons’ ability to collapse the pocket from the interior and impact the quarterback helped create turnovers. The departure of defensive lineman Jurrell Casey will lead to a bigger role for Simmons this season.

Ranking: On his way. — Turron Davenport

20. Denver Broncos (from Pittsburgh Steelers)

Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Analysis: After a rather rocky start, including a three-drop game against the Chiefs in early October, Fant flashed plenty of potential with two of the Broncos’ five 100-yard receiving games in 2019. His speed makes him a difficult matchup, especially in catch-and-run situations. His development into a potential Pro Bowl-level player will hinge on his ability to expand his route tree. At the moment, he doesn’t show top explosiveness and flexibility in his hips when he comes in and out of breaks, so his impact in the middle of the field, against zone defenses, is muted at times. If he can expand his ability to get in and out his breaks a little better, with a little more pop, he will become a more involved player in the team’s passing attack. Fant works hard, and his ability to bounce back from his early difficulties shows resiliency.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Jeff Legwold

Darnell Savage, S, Maryland

Analysis: A strong start was slowed by an ankle injury that kept Savage out of two games, but there’s no reason to think he can’t ascend to the star category. He picked off two passes and forced a pair of fumbles on the way to making the Pro Football Writers of America All-Rookie Team. If the Packers were to re-draft the first round from last year, it’s a good bet general manager Brian Gutekunst would once again trade up from No. 30 to take him.

Rating: On his way. — Rob Demovsky

Andre Dillard, OT, Washington State

Analysis: Dillard was up and down during his four starts in 2019, showing off good feet and technique in pass protection — but also the need to get stronger and, some believe, nastier. There were people in the building in favor of keeping Jason Peters for another year to protect quarterback Carson Wentz‘s blind side while Dillard develops, but the call was made to allow Peters to test free agency and hand the keys to Dillard. There’s a leap of faith involved that might not have been made if Dillard wasn’t a first-round pick. But he has the ability to become a high-end player if he can put it all together, and he should be a capable starter in the meanwhile, given his natural gifts.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Tim McManus

Tytus Howard, OT, Alabama State

Analysis: After spending training camp and Week 2 at guard, Howard started at right tackle in Week 3. He impressed in seven starts at right tackle before partially tearing his MCL and ending the season on injured reserve. Howard is spending this offseason rehabbing. Texans coach Bill O’Brien said at the combine he thought Howard would “be able to do some things in the offseason program.” Regardless of whether there is a spring program this year, Howard should be ready to go for training camp, and he is expected to be Houston’s starting right tackle across from Laremy Tunsil in 2020.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Sarah Barshop

Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

Analysis: Many see the elusive yet powerful running back as having been robbed of the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award. All he did was carry the Raiders’ offense (on a broken shoulder, nonetheless) to 1,150 rushing yards and seven touchdowns in 13 games. Alas, he did miss three of the Raiders’ last four games with that shoulder injury, which occurred on the first play of a Week 7 game at Green Bay. Jacobs averaged 4.8 yards per carry and showed a Marcus Allen-like leap at the goal line, and he will be more of a threat in the Raiders’ passing game in 2020.

Rating: He’s a star. — Paul Gutierrez

Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma

Analysis: “Hollywood” Brown flashed star potential despite being less than a year removed from foot surgery. He made a splash in his NFL debut, becoming the first player in league history with multiple 40-yard touchdowns in his first game. Brown finished with 584 yards receiving and seven touchdown catches. He was the fastest target for quarterback Lamar Jackson last season, reaching 20 mph on three catches. The Ravens expect an even more explosive second season from Brown, who had a screw removed from his foot and should be fully recovered by the start of the season. “This year, he’s going to be dangerous,” Jackson said.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Jamison Hensley

Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State

Analysis: Sweat displayed his speed and length, but he has a bit to learn about rushing the passer. However, he performed well versus the run and improved as the season unfolded. Under first-year Redskins coach Ron Rivera, Sweat will move to a 4-3 defensive end in Washington’s base package, which will keep him from dropping like he had to at times in a 3-4. And he could be a bookend with Chase Young if the Redskins select him at No. 2. Don’t be surprised if Sweat ends up having a strong season.

Rating: He’s a starter. — John Keim

Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State

Analysis: Abram played in only one game, having suffered a season-ending shoulder injury in the opener against the Rams. Known as an intimidating hitter as a safety, the biggest blow he delivered came inadvertently against one of his own teammates, cornerback Gareon Conley, who had to be taken off the field on a stretcher. The Raiders are depending heavily on Abram to be a foundation piece. “I don’t like Abram; I love Abram,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. “I think Raiders fans are going to love him, but he’s got to be on the grass. The most important ability is availability.”

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Paul Gutierrez

Jerry Tillery, DT, Notre Dame

Analysis: Tillery struggled in his rookie season, playing 15 games — but starting only three — while being on the field for just over one-third of the snaps. Tillery hit a low point in Week 14 when he was a healthy scratch. He finished the season with two sacks. Tillery must prove in 2020 that he has the playmaking ability that prompted the Chargers to select him in the first round. If he is able to do that on a consistent basis, he should see increased playing time.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Lindsey Thiry

L.J. Collier, DE, TCU

Analysis: Collier needed all the offseason reps he could get after only one year as a full-time starter in college, so it was a significant setback when he sprained his ankle early in training camp. He missed the season opener, then produced next to nothing when he returned: three tackles in 142 snaps over 11 games. He was a healthy scratch six times, including both playoff games. The Seahawks need Collier to take the kind of second-year jump they just saw from Rasheem Green, who had four sacks after a nondescript rookie campaign. Quinton Jefferson’s departure should open the door for Collier to see more playing time as an early-down end who can move inside in passing situations.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Brady Henderson

DeAndre Baker, CB, Georgia

Analysis: Baker’s rookie season was rocky, to say the least. At one point, he got called out in a team meeting, and his seven touchdowns allowed as the nearest defender was tied for fourth in the NFL, per Next Gen Stats. There are questions about Baker’s desire to be great. Sleeping in meetings was not uncommon. But considering he improved on the field as the season progressed, he should be better with experience. How much? It helps that new defensive coordinator Patrick Graham had his cornerbacks in press coverage for more than 50% of the snaps last season. That plays to Baker’s strengths. He was in press coverage 26.7% of the time his rookie year.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Jordan Raanan

Kaleb McGary, OT, Washington

Analysis: McGary’s career got off to a bit of a rough start, as a minor heart issue — something he had dealt with in the past — resurfaced. After a procedure, McGary went on to have a rather solid rookie season at right tackle. He has a nasty edge to him that really shows up when he is blocking downfield in the running game. McGary has to polish his hands and footwork in order to deal with speed rushers. The Falcons need him and draft-class partner Chris Lindstrom to hold up strong on the right side of the line to protect Matt Ryan and open holes in the running game.

Rating: He’s a starter. — Vaughn McClure

N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State

Analysis: Because Harry missed the first half of the season on injured reserve, and then was put in the challenging spot of having to integrate into the Tom Brady-led complex offense, his impact was limited. But Brady himself has said that he thinks Harry has a bright future ahead of him. So if Harry is healthy, he has a chance to become a starting-caliber target in the Patriots’ offense, as he has a rapport with projected starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham from their time as roommates as rookies.

Rating: Has a lot to prove. — Mike Reiss

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