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PEMBROKE, NC 28372

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Contact the Pine Needle Office:

Phone: 910-521-6204

Email: pineneedle@uncp.edu 

NFL Draft Talk Volume LXVIII

The 2019 NFL draft is officially in the books and there were some teams that knocked it out of the park and made the most of nearly every pick and there were others that did a decent job or hardly moved the needle after the three-day event was concluded. Here are the draft grades for each team by division: AFC West
•    Denver Broncos: A-
     General Manager John Elway had himself quite a successful draft with just six picks over the three-day event. Five of the six will be starters or key contributors come fall or in the next year or two. They started off on opening night by trading back 10 spots and still landing one of the top playmakers in the draft when they selected Iowa’s Noah Fant at No.20 overall. He’s hands down the most athletic prospect at that position and will now be at the disposal of veteran Joe Flacco who is at his best when he has a dynamic pass-catching tight end to throw to.
     They picked up a trio of players on day two that included a pair of players in the trenches on both sides of the ball and their future franchise quarterback. With their first pick in the second round, they selected Dalton Risner of K-State at No.42 overall to plat gaurd and selected Flacco’s heir apparent one pick later at No.43 overall in Missouri’s Drew Lock.
     Many experts believed he was going to come off the board in the first round and now Lock will have the opportunity to develop and be groomed behind Flacco instead of being thrust into the fire as a rookie like many of Elway’s misses at the quarterback position since the days of Peyton Manning.
     They used their next two picks to pick up a pair of edge rushers that will add to an already potent pass rush. In the third round, they selected interior defensive lineman Dre’Mont Jones of Ohio State at No.71 overall and in the fifth round they took Oregon defensive end Justin Hollins at No.156 overall. 
•    Kansas City Chiefs: B+
     They had a pretty solid top half of their draft by drafting a trio plug and play starters with their first three picks. Each of those picks came on day two after they traded out of the first round to accumulate more picks. With the recent uncertainty surrounding the career of the electric receiver/all-purpose player Tyreek Hill due to potential legal troubles, they used their first second-round pick on speedy receiver Mecole Hardman from Georgia at No.56 overall.
     Hardman brings a skill set that mirrors the two-time Pro Bowler with his blazing fast speed and ability to contribute as a returner. He’ll thrive in their offense with the way his speed can be used on jet sweeps and on deep throws down the field for league MVP Pat Mahomes. With their second pick in round two, they picked up a playmaking safety in Juan Thornhill out of Virginia at No.63 overall and will excel lined up next to the Honey Badger (Tyrann Mathieu) in the backend. 
     In the third round, they picked up one of the most underrated players in this draft in Khalen Saunders out of Western Illinois at No.84 overall. He caught the eyes of scouts at the Reese’s Senior Bowl where he dominated the week of practice as well as the game. He’s an athletic interior defensive lineman who will form a great pocket collapsing tandem with the ascending Chris Jones. 
•    Los Angeles Chargers: B
     Their first two picks alone are enough to earn them a high grade and the rest of their draft class was enough to earn them an overall satisfactory grade. They selected Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery Notre Dame with their first-round pick at No.28 overall. He’s a towering presence in the middle who get great pressure up the middle while Pro Bowl pass rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa bring the heat of the edge.
     With their second pick, they landed the rangiest safety in the draft in Nassir Adderley from Delaware at No.60 overall. The playmaking ball hawk will team up with their first-round pick from last year Derwin James, who was named an All-Pro as a rookie, to form one of the most dangerous safety tandems in the league. 
     In the third round, they selected offensive tackle Trey Pipkins from Sioux Falls at No.91 overall to provide some quality depth and perhaps push for a starting job. They picked up a pair of potential future starters with their first two selections on day three. In the fourth round, they drafted Notre Dame linebacker Drue Tranquill at No.130 overall. He’s a sideline-to-sideline heat-seeking missile who could prove to be quite the find if he can stay healthy since injuries hampered him a lot in college. 
     They might have found quarterback Phillip Rivers’ eventual replacement in the fifth round when they picked Easton Stick at No.166 overall out of North Dakota State. He’s a dual-threat quarterback with tremendous upside if he can be groomed by the right coaching staff.
•    Oakland Raiders: B+
     They had a great haul from day one to day three and the only reason they don’t deserve an A is that they reached with their top pick in defensive end Clelin Ferrell out of Clemson at No.4 overall. He’s terrific pass rusher who was consistent with his production in college on one of the most loaded defensive lines in all of college football, but they could’ve traded out of the top 10 to select him. Many draft experts projected that he’d go anywhere from 15 to 25 and while the pick itself is not a bad one because he is a scheme fit and will undoubtedly have success at the next level, but the value was not there to warrant him going that early.
     They did get good value with their other two first round picks on night one of the draft when they selected running back Josh Jacobs of Alabama at No.24 overall and selected Mississippi State strong safety Johnathan Abram three picks later at No.27 overall. Jacobs is the consensus top prospect at the position and brings a dynamic skill set to the table with the way he can make an impact as a rusher, receiver, and returner. Abram is viewed as the top prospect at his position as well and will be the captain of their revamped secondary.
     Since their defense was among the worst in the league at covering receivers and putting pressure on opposing quarterback, they used four of their last six picks on that side of the ball. They picked up a pair of starting corners in Trayvon Mullen of Clemson in the second round at No.40 overall and Houston’s Isaiah Johnson in the fourth at No.129 overall.
     Since their pitiful pass rush finished dead last in the league in sacks last year with just 13 on the season, they aggressively addressed that position with not only their first pick on Thursday but also with a pair of promising young edge rushers on Saturday. In the fourth round, they took Eastern Michigan’s Maxx Crosby at No.106 overall and picked up Quinton Bell out of Prairie View A&M in the sixth at No.230 overall.
     They also drafted a pair of pass catchers that could be contributors in specific roles for their offense. At No.137 overall, they took LSU tight end Foster Moreau and at No.149 overall they selected Carolina folk hero receiver Hunter Renfrow out of Clemson. They have a glaring need tight end since Jared Cook’s departure so Moreau could take advantage of the opportunity. Renfrow is not the most gifted athlete but is a reliable slot receiver who uses crisp route running to create separation and get open in clutch situations.  

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