First day of draft expected to focus on defense


Defensive players likely to dominate first round

By BARRY WILNER

AP Pro Football Writer

NASHVILLE, Tenn.

We learned during the 2018 season that offense is beloved by NFL teams (and fans). We also learned that defense, as performed by the Patriots in the Super Bowl, carries away the Lombardi Trophy.

This year’s draft, which begins Thursday night, is stocked with defenders who can be difference-makers. Many of them play up front and will go very high in the proceedings.

Here’s one view of the first round, presuming no trades — something extremely unlikely.

1. Arizona: You don’t hire a new coach out of college who plays a specific system and then not give him what he considers the perfect player to run that scheme. So Kliff Kingsbury gets ... KYLER MURRAY, QB, OKLAHOMA

2. San Francisco: Pedigree means plenty with this pick, even if the Niners’ choice missed much of 2018 while injured. Yet another D-line early pick for San Francisco. NICK BOSA, DE, OHIO STATE

3. New York Jets: The Jets easily could trade out of this spot. Staying put, they’ll put into their new uniforms a dynamic guy for the trenches. QUINNEN WILLIAMS, DL, ALABAMA

4. Oakland: With the first of three picks in the opening round as the rebuild begins in earnest, the Raiders fill the chasm created by their trading of Khalil Mack last summer. JOSH ALLEN, LB, KENTUCKY

5. Tampa Bay: Lots of holes here for Bruce Arians to get filled, and he’s an offensive-first guy. Still, there are too many studs on the other side of the ball to pass on one of them. DEVIN WHITE, LB, LSU

6. New York Giants: Around the Big Apple, fans are salivating about the Giants taking Eli Manning’s successor at quarterback in this spot. Sorry, New Yorkers, you’ll have to wait. Defense first, if that sounds familiar in this draft. MONTEZ SWEAT, LB-DE, MISSISSIPPI STATE

7. Jacksonville: Tom Coughlin stays in-state for a protector for his new QB, Nick Foles. JAWAAN TAYLOR, OT, FLORIDA

8. Detroit: Another team staying within state boundaries for its choice. Matt Patricia’s strength is defense and he adds to the building process with ... RASHAN GARY, DL, MICHIGAN

9. Buffalo: Did we mention this is a defense-first draft? ED OLIVER, DL, HOUSTON

10. Denver: Big decision time for John Elway, who loves drafting quarterbacks and is staring at one who threw for 50 TDs last year. But Elway also traded for Joe Flacco, who isn’t on his last legs. So ... BRIAN BURNS, LB-DE, FLORIDA STATE

11. Cincinnati: Now the decision on that QB belongs to Cincinnati, which has seen attendance drop as the team flounders. Another in-state pick, this one a gamble and not for an immediate need. DWAYNE HASKINS, QB, OHIO STATE

12. Green Bay: Replace LB Clay Matthews or replace WR Randall Cobb or help TE Jimmy Graham? This is high for a tight end, but there are two worthy of first-round status. T.J. HOCKENSON, TE, IOWA

13. Miami: Las Vegas odds-makers see the Dolphins as the worst team in 2019. If they are right, how much does it matter which player they choose here? CLELIN FERRELL, DE, CLEMSON

14. Atlanta: Although help up front is a most crunching need, the Falcons see the top cornerback in this crop on the board and grab him. GREEDY WILLIAMS, CB, LSU

15. Washington: If he wasn’t a quarterback, he wouldn’t have cracked the top half of the first round — or maybe gone in the entire opening round. But he is a QB, so ... DANIEL JONES, QB, DUKE

16. Carolina: Another team that is looking for a developmental passer. With several likely available later on, the Panthers grab something more pressing. JONAH WILLIAMS, OT, ALABAMA

17. New York Giants (from Cleveland): CRUSHED! New York figured it could get Jones here, and considering he’s been coached by the same guy who handled Eli and Peyton Manning in college, he was a perfect fit. Sorry, Big Blue. DEVIN BUSH, LB, MICHIGAN

18. Minnesota: If they go by need, the Vikings have their choice of blockers to fill a major void. CODY FORD, OL, OKLAHOMA

19. Tennessee: The Titans’ temptation could be taking a tight end or wideout. They also could use help on both lines. Time to boost the excitement quotient. D.K. METCALF, WR, MISSISSIPPI

20. Pittsburgh: An offseason of turmoil and sea change has placed added emphasis and attention on this pick. Strange to see Pittsburgh with so many holes. BYRON MURPHY, CB, WASHINGTON

21. Seattle: Few teams have the wise front offices and coaching staff that can retool and still be successful. That success continues with ... DEXTER LAWRENCE, DT, CLEMSON

22. Baltimore: Metcalf would have been a nice fit here, but he’s in Music City. The Ravens could go defense, but the offensive line needs bolstering. ANDRE DILLARD, OL, WASHINGTON STATE

23. Houston: Dillard was in their sights, and the Texans’ blocking needs fortifying. Sticking with that approach, they get ... DALTON RISNER, OT, KANSAS STATE

24. Oakland (from Chicago): Jon Gruden has made it clear how much he adores tight ends who can block and catch the ball. He’ll get one. NOAH FANT, TE, IOWA

25. Philadelphia: Eagles boss Howie Roseman rubs his eyes in disbelief and takes little time to select a college champion he couldn’t imagine would fall to Philly. CHRISTIAN WILKINS, DL, CLEMSON

26. Indianapolis: Never doubt GM Chris Ballard’s selections after pulling off one of the great drafts of recent years in 2018. He begins this one with ... DEANDRE BAKER, CB, GEORGIA

27. Oakland (from Dallas): Gruden would have loved Baker in his secondary. He is tempted to stick with that position, then goes for the other backfield and a do-everything RB JOSH JACOBS, RB, ALABAMA

28. Los Angeles Chargers: This comes down to if the Chargers want to wait for DT Jeffery Simmons to recover from a knee injury, or play it safer. JEFFERY SIMMONS, DT, MISSISSIPPI STATE

29. Kansas City: Defense is a must, as we saw in the AFC championship game. NASIR ADDERLEY, CB, DELAWARE

30. Green Bay (from New Orleans): After getting help for Aaron Rodgers earlier, the Packers try to fill a hole in their secondary yet again. JUSTIN LAYNE, CB, MICHIGAN STATE

31. Los Angeles Rams: The most talented roster in the league adds to it up front. GARRETT BRADBURY, OL North Carolina State.

32. New England: Predicting anything about the Patriots on draft day is like trying to figure out when (if?) Tom Brady will retire. A.J. BROWN, WR, MISSISSIPPI

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