For the second year in a row, the first pick of the NFL Draft is a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from the University of Oklahoma. Kyler Murray is that man in 2019, going to the Arizona Cardinals, following Cleveland Browns signal-caller Baker Mayfield in 2018.
After this year’s top pick, the first round was loaded with linemen and linebackers. To be exact, 21 of the first 32 selections in this draft were players who should fill spots on the offensive line or the defensive front seven.
Defensive backs were an afterthought on Thursday, with two safeties and one cornerback going in the first round.
The first DB off the board was Maryland safety Darnell Savage Jr., who went to the Green Bay Packers with the 21st overall pick.
After addressing the cornerback position with its first two picks in last year’s draft, the Packers again looked to bolster its secondary by adding Savage. Listed at 5-foot-11 and 198 pounds, Savage was All-Big Ten Second Team as a senior, recording four interceptions and 52 tackles for the Terrapins.
At the NFL scouting combine, Savage ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds and posted a 39.5-inch vertical leap. While not a huge hitter, he is lauded for his ability to cover a lot of ground and always seems to be around the football.
The next DB was chosen with the 27th pick, when the Oakland Raiders took Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram.
Voted to the All-America Second Team and All-SEC First Team as a senior, Abrams recorded 99 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, five pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery last season.
He ran 4.45 in the 40 at the combine, where he measured 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds. He projects as a strong safety in the pros who excels in run support, but will have to improve in pass coverage.
With the 30th pick of the first round, the New York Giants chose Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker, who won the 2018 Jim Thorpe Award as college football’s best defensive back.
As expected for a Thorpe Award winner, Baker cleaned up in accolades last season. He was All-America First Team, All-SEC First Team, and was a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award as the nation’s top defensive player. He made 40 tackles to go along with two interceptions, 10 pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
At the combine, Baker measured 5-foot-11 and 193 pounds, and ran 4.52 in the 40. Baker is a classic cover corner with potential to be the kind of shutdown defender assigned to shadow the opposing team’s No. 1 receiver.
The draft continues with the second and third rounds on Friday.