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With the NFL Draft scheduled for April 25th, mock drafts have been flying all over social media. While some prospects have inclined their draft stock after the NFL Combine, some are simply viewed as “safe” selections.
The term safe doesn’t necessarily reflect the highest ceiling or the most potential upside. For example, Ole Miss WR DK Metcalf has very little production at a college level, but provides major upside after his impressive combine. On the other end of the spectrum, Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence showcased himself in college, but his off-the-field record makes him a liability to some.
Here are 5 first-round prospects who are viewed as safe picks, but will make an impact in the NFL:
5. TE TJ Hockenson (Iowa Stats: 73 receptions, 1,080 yards, 9 TD)
With an NFL draft grade of 6.35, TJ Hockenson ranks 6th among all prospects in that category. Sharing reps with fellow prospect Noah Fant at Iowa, Hockenson still earned the John Mackey Award for the nation’s top tight end in 2018.
Iowa has produced a plethora of standout tight ends over the last several years, including Dallas Clark and current San Francisco 49ers standout George Kittle. While tight ends are usually risks in the early rounds, the last 4 selected in the first round have been Baltimore Ravens Hayden Hurst (injured), Tampa Bay Buccaneers OJ Howard, New York Giants Evan Engram, and Cleveland Browns David Njoku. When utilized correctly, those aforementioned names have been able to deliver.
Hockenson is an excellent blocker, and fits into just about any system in today’s game. His agility will be a mismatch for most linebackers, and his length provides him with an advantage over select safeties. With most offenses looking into two TE packages, Hockenson should be a top 15-20 selection in 2019.
4. OL Garrett Bradbury (NC State Stats: 1x All-American, 1x First Team All-ACC)
Originally projected as a tight end, an injury led to Garrett Bradbury transitioning to the offensive line. As a junior, Bradbury played all 13 games and earned honorable mention All-ACC honors. In 2018 as a senior, Bradbury won the Rimington Trophy as the nation’s top center, and his draft stock has only inclined since.
While checking off most fundamental checklists for scouts, Bradbury has the potential to start immediately in the NFL. Labeled a 6’3″, the average height for an NFL lineman is listed at 6’5″. Despite that, Bradbury’s athleticism will permit him to be successful for years to come.
3. LB Devin White (LSU Stats: 286 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 3 FR)
The emergence of Devin White began in 2017, as he led the SEC with 133 tackles. In addition, White led LSU with 14 tackles for a loss that year, earning himself first-team all-conference and second-team USA Today All-American honors. As a junior, White earned himself the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker, showcasing himself as an elite talent.
Originally listed as a running back in high school, Devin White has the fastest 40-time among LB’s at 4.42 seconds. While he is still learning to excel as a linebacker, simple coaching will improve his play. His ability to find the football is fun to watch, as he will be listed as the top LB prospect in 2019.
2. EDGE Nick Bosa (Ohio State Stats: 77 tackles, 17.5 sacks, 2 FF)
Although Nick Bosa was limited to 3 games in 2018, he holds the highest floor in the 2019 NFL Draft. The surrounding hype around Bosa involves his play in 2017, where he was named as the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and first-team all-conference selection.
Within a family full of football players, Joey Bosa is currently a member of the Los Angeles Chargers, and his father, John Bosa, played for the Miami Dolphins in the late 1980’s.
Nick Bosa fits within a 3-4 and 4-3 scheme, making him a conservative #1 selection with the Arizona Cardinals on the clock. Although his brother will likely have the brighter future moving forward, Nick Bosa is a safe selection within the top 2.
1. DL Quinnen Williams (Alabama Stats: 24 games played, 91 tackles, 10 sacks)
Many will place Nick Bosa over Quinnen Williams, but forget Williams was named as a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski and Bednarik Awards and the Outland Trophy in 2018. As a sophomore, Williams started 15 games for Alabama, and was able to learn under previous talents in Johnathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne.
His lack of length and weight may prove to be difficult in the early stages of his career, but Quinnen Williams is a special talent. With Pro Bowl potential, Williams has the highest ceiling among all 2019 NFL prospects.
Honorable Mentions: Josh Allen, Jonah Williams, Christian Wilkins, Jawaan Taylor
Featured Image: Jay LaPrete/AP Photo