NFL Draft 2019: Five stories to follow as Kyler Murray, Nick Bosa and Jon Gruden prepare for big night

Malik Ouzia
Evening Standard

One of the biggest events in the NFL calendar begins on Thursday as America’s top college football prospects have their dreams realised or crushed at the 2019 NFL Draft.

Staged over three days in Nashville, Tennessee, the draft will see the NFL’s 32 franchises select 254 potential future stars between them.

With the aim of making the league as competitive as possible, the NFL grants the first pick in each of seven rounds to the team that ended the previous season with the worst record, and the 32nd and final pick to last year’s Super Bowl winners.

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It’s not quite that simple though – some franchises have already acquired the picks of others as part of previous trades, while franchises can continue to agree deals to trade up or down during the draft, in order to nab the man they believe will transform their team.

Here are five key stories to look out for…

Kyler Murray’s second Draft Day

No one in this year’s cohort will be better prepared for the tension of draft day than the man who has already been through it once.

Murray collects his Heisman Trophy in New York. The previous winner, Baker Mayfield, was last year's number one pick for the Cleveland Browns
Murray collects his Heisman Trophy in New York. The previous winner, Baker Mayfield, was last year's number one pick for the Cleveland Browns

The multi-talented Murray was the ninth pick in last year’s Major League Baseball draft, and looked set for a career with the Oakland Athletics. However, the As allowed him to return to college to play his final football season as starting quarterback for the Oklahoma Sooners, and after winning the Heisman Trophy, Murray decided to set his sights on the NFL instead.

The Arizona Cardinals have the first pick in this year’s draft, after a 3-13 season, and have been widely presumed to be set on Murray for some time. The big question is whether they’ll use prime draft capital on another quarterback, just a year after they traded up to get Josh Rosen at number ten overall.

What to do with the number two?

Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, younger brother of Los Angeles Chargers star Joey, is regarded by many scouts to be the best player in the draft, and is projected as a likely second overall pick for the San Francisco 49ers.

But what if the Cardinals go cold on Murray? If that happens, and he’s still available at two, the value of the 49ers’ pick will skyrocket, with franchises in need of a quarterback falling over themselves to trade up and seize an unexpected opportunity.

Nick Bosa looks set to join brother Joey in the NFL
Nick Bosa looks set to join brother Joey in the NFL

The 49ers were in a similar position in 2017, when they traded the number two pick to the Chicago Bears, who wanted Mitch Trubisky, and their GM John Lynch has already said there’s a chance they’ll do it again if the right offer comes in.

How will the champs strengthen?

No one has more picks in this year’s draft than the Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots, who have no fewer than 12 selections to make.

All the talk during a - by their standards - fairly average regular season last year was about whether the Pats were too old to hit the highs of previous years in the playoffs (they weren’t), but the prospect of a large injection of youth still spells trouble for their AFC rivals.

Rob Gronkowski’s retirement means a new tight end could be high on the wishlist, while at some point Tom Brady will need replacing – though they thought that when they drafted Jimmy Garoppolo five years ago.

The Raiders are all in with Jon Gruden

The Patriots may have the most picks, but it’s the Oakland Raiders who probably have the most draft capital, with three first rounders.

Since being handed a ten-year contract to return to the franchise last offseason, head coach Jon Gruden has bet the house, offloading star men Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper to land first round selections from the Bears and Cowboys, and will pick 4th, 24th and 27th.

Gruden has three first round picks to play with (AP)
Gruden has three first round picks to play with (AP)

Reports this week claim the Raiders are planning a surprise pick at number four, after sending home many of their scouts last week for fear of leaks, so we could be in for a fun evening on Thursday.

Gruden has already signed Antonio Brown from the Steelers, but three exciting rookies would go a long way to improving on a woeful 4-12 campaign.

Last Chance U to NFL?

Even the most avid of NFL fans in the UK might struggle to keep up with college football, but two names that may be familiar are those of Dakota Allen and Ronald Ollie, stars of Netflix series Last Chance U.

The latter, the loveable defensive lineman who warmed hearts in the first season of the show, which documents the trials and tribulations of junior college footballers at East Mississippi Community College, says he expects to end up an undrafted free-agent, but has been forecast to go in a late round in some projections.

Allen, meanwhile, ended up at EMCC after a run-in with the law initially cost him his place at Texas Tech, but after turning his life around, he returned to the division one school, and is expected to be a mid-to-low round pick this week. He would join John Franklin III, who became the first player featured in the show to reach the NFL when he signed for the Chicago Bears last year.

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