For months, it has been a foregone conclusion that former Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa would be the first player taken in the 2019 NFL Draft. Neither a core muscle injury in the third game of the year, nor departing school midseason to rehab and train on his own could derail that presumption.
Bosa’s selection as the draft’s top pick has seemed like an inevitability for almost an entire calendar year. However, dear reader, if you would be so kind as to indulge me, I think that the groundwork might have been laid this week for someone other than Bosa to be taken No. 1 in April.
Crazy, I know.
But, do you want to know what’s even crazier? I think that it is a distinct possibility that the person who could supplant Bosa in the coveted spot might just be another Buckeye.
Admittedly, predicting selections five months before the draft happens is kind of silly, especially when you consider that it is being done before the draft order is finalized, the college football season ends, pro days happen, and players interview and workout at the NFL Combine.
While there is a lot that can change between now and then, and even more information is still to be learned, the one thing that we absolutely know is that there is nothing more valuable in the NFL than a quality starting quarterback. And, this week, the number of those available in the draft took a significant hit, as Oregon’s Justin Herbert confirmed that he would be returning to Eugene, Oregon, for his senior season.
For much of the season Herbert was expected to be the first quarterback taken, but in the final third of the campaign, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins began climbing his way up mock drafts to the point where he surpassed Herbert in many of them. Of course, Haskins has not yet made public any decision to forego his final two seasons of collegiate eligibility, and could decide to return to Columbus; but that is looking less and less likely every day.
Now, even if Haskins was already firmly ahead of Herbert on most NFL teams’ draft boards, the fact that the presumed second QB on the board is no longer going to be available could create an environment in which teams looking to take a quarterback take desperate measures in order to secure Haskins.
Those top three teams are all set in terms of quarterbacks; as the Cardinals drafted Josh Rosen in 2018, the Niners should have Jimmy Garoppolo healthy for next year, and the Jets are so optimistic about Sam Darnold that they are reportedly going to make a move to convince noted quarterback guru Jim Harbaugh to leave the Michigan sideline following the season.
Now, the fourth and fifth teams in that order are a little more complicated. Both have established quarterbacks, but the respective coaches and/or fan bases might be getting antsy with them under center. Of course, Raiders’ coach Jon Gruden could decide to trade anyone — including QB Derek Carr— at any point in time for anyone or anything. And, apparently there is at least rumblings of the Lions contemplating a trade of Matthew Stafford.
However, I would imagine with veteran QBs in the fold, it would be unlikely for either noted draft-pick hoarder Gruden, or Detroit coach Matt Patricia (who spent 13 of his 14 seasons as a Patriot assistant on the defensive side of the ball) turning over a top-five pick for a rookie QB.
In SBNation’s most recent mock draft (released before Herbert made his plans to remain a Duck known), Dan Kadar said, “All of this is to say that a player like Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins could land anywhere in the first round... Haskins is a top 10 player in this draft, and the best quarterback.”
He then projected Missouri QB Drew Lock to go 16th, but had no other signal-callers in the first round. However, many are expecting Duke’s Daniel Jones to move up the board in the months leading up to the draft.
But, if Haskins is far and away the best QB available, it seems to reason that teams like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (clearly growing tired of Jameis Winston) at sixth, the New York Giants (desperate for a replacement for Eli Manning) at seventh, and the Jacksonville Jaguars (who were a competent QB away from the Super Bowl last year) at eighth could all try to come up with a package to move move up in order to get Haskins — not to mention the Bengals at 12, Dolphins at 13, Broncos at 14, etc.
If the rush to get the best quarterback in the draft drives the asking price up high enough, the Cardinals (or whomever ends up picking first) could come away with a nice haul. If that is the case, and the draft order remains intact, the 49ers would almost certainly take Bosa, as not only would he be the best player available, but pass-rusher is also a position of need for San Fran.
That would complete a historic one-two punch for the Buckeyes. And, don’t forget, defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones is also a likely first round pick as well.
In the modern draft era — following the AFL and NFL merger in 1970 — one school having the top two picks has only happened twice. First was in 1984 when Nebraska wide receiver and offensive tackle Irving Fryar and Dean Steinkuhler were taken by the New England Patriots and Houston Oilers, respectively.
It happened again in the year 2000 when the Cleveland Browns selected defensive end Courtney Brown and the Washington Redskins took linebacker LaVar Arrington, both from Penn State. In that year, Washington also had the third pick, which they used on Alabama’s Chris Samuels.
Despite these two situations, no school has ever had the top two picks taken in the modern draft in which the players played on opposite sides of the ball. Thus would be the case if Bosa and Haskins went 1 and 2, in either order.
The closest that the Buckeyes have ever gotten to accomplishing this feat was in 1997 when future Hall of Fame offensive lineman Orlando Pace was selected first overall by the St. Louis Rams, and then the Seattle Seahawks took All-Pro cornerback Shawn Springs with the third pick. USC defensive tackle Darrell Russell was sandwiched between them as the Oakland Raiders’ second overall selection.
I’m not necessarily predicting that Haskins and Bosa going 1-2 is absolutely going to happen, but I’m certainly not not predicting it. If and when Haskins declares, and we start moving through the evaluation process, don’t be surprised if we start hearing rumors of desperate GMs throwing oodles and oodles of picks at whoever ends up on the clock.