NFL Draft fans, you could have seen this exclusive analysis first, in your inbox, if you subscribed to PFW's draft newsletter. Sign up today for free and you'll get insider draft news and analysis multiple times every week in your inbox leading up to the the draft!
The only two teams projected to have multiple third-round compensatory picks in the 2019 NFL draft were the last two remaining from the 2018 season — the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots.
That nugget, courtesy of comp pick guru Nick Korte of Over The Cap, is impressive in and of itself. It's a clear indication — contrary to popular perception — that these two clubs aren’t somehow sacrificing their future for the present.
Why does that perception exist? Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the past three Super Bowl participants, including the reigning champion Eagles, have likely consummated more trades than any of the other 29 clubs over the past three years. And since draft picks are often involved, the immediate hot take generally is, “well, they’re just robbing Peter to pay Paul, but they’ll feel it down the road.”
Well, the Rams and Patriots, after a year in which the NFC champs acquired their starting CB duo, top edge rusher and top receiver, and the AFC champs added their starting left tackle and All-Pro return specialist via trade, will sure feel the reverberations down the road — in the form of extra draft ammunition.
How is this possible? The Patriots replaced Nate Solder, who signed the NFL’s richest OL deal, with Trent Brown, acquired via trade from the 49ers to assume arguably the most important role in football, protecting Tom Brady’s blindside.
New England benched Malcolm Butler in Super Bowl LII, then let him walk in free agency to the Titans, only to find the next Butler, undrafted rookie J.C. Jackson from Maryland. With each passing week, Jackson looks more and more like a star.
The Patriots also gladly watched the Titans make Dion Lewis a top-five RB earner in free agency before replacing him in part with first-round RB Sony Michel, the NFL’s leading postseason rusher.
Although Jackson and Michel certainly appear to be part of the Patriots’ long-term plans, it’s unclear whether Brown — an impending free agent who’s played brilliantly in the playoffs — will be retained. If he isn’t, will he have been merely a costly “rental?” Well, no. Because he’d sign a monster deal elsewhere, factoring into the Patriots’ 2020 compensatory formula.
We knew Bill Belichick played chess, not checkers, but the Rams’ Les Snead clearly has some Bobby Fischer in him, too.
Remember that strategy we just mentioned about procuring “rentals” via trade and potentially benefiting by not re-signing them in the form of a comp pick?
Dante Fowler, whom the Rams acquired at the trade deadline, produced the key hurry in overtime of the NFC championship game that led to Drew Brees’ interception and Greg Zuerlein’s Super Bowl-clinching bomb moments later. Like Brown — and this will be one heck of a matchup Sunday, mind you — Fowler has been a terror off the edge all playoffs, perhaps pricing the free-agent-to-be out of L.A. But that means the Rams potentially would have enjoyed his pass-rushing services basically for a pittance, since they sent a 2019 third-rounder to Jacksonville but could get one back a year later.
Remember the Sammy Watkins trade last summer? Almost the same deal. Yes, it cost a second-rounder in addition to CB E.J. Gaines, but along with Trumaine Johnson’s free-agent exit for the Jets, Watkins signing with the Chiefs last spring buttressed the Rams’ incoming comp pick haul.
Marcus Peters likely will fall under the same umbrella when he signs elsewhere, as will Ndamukong Suh. Remember, Aaron Donald’s partner in crime was released by the Dolphins before signing his one-year, $14 million deal in L.A. That means he won’t affect the Rams’ incoming compensatory formula.
It almost seems unfair, but [insert your own Patriots joke here] the same rules apply for all 32 clubs — some simply are shrewder and wiser in using them to their own advantage.
Which brings us back to those valuable third-round comp picks and the overall lay of the 2019 NFL draft land for the Patriots and Rams. Remember, the Patriots also have an extra second- (from the Bears) and third-rounder (Lions) from 2018 draft-weekend deals — they have more leverage than perhaps every team besides the Raiders and Packers.
One of the apparent strengths of this draft will be mid-round receivers. That position has been a draft thorn for Belichick, but he’s beautifully situated to take another swing at a spot that experienced more turnover than any in New England last season.
The Rams have huge decisions looming with their offensive line and in their secondary, two areas of the draft that could require spending at a premium. Well, the Rams are not only back picking in Round 1 for the first time since landing Jared Goff, they have added ammo this April — also with the peace of mind the same should hold true in 2020 — to potentially maneuver and target those spots.
There’s a NFL adage that bad teams tend to stay bad. There’s also ample evidence to think that the two best clubs this season have uncovered a smart, aggressive formula that should help them stay on top.
— Arthur Arkush
Greg Gabriel's scouting report: DeAndre Baker – DC – Georgia
Size – 5112e – 190e – 4.47e
Strong Points –
Size and length. Fast and sudden. Very good athlete — quick feet and turn. As physical a college corner as you will find. Very good in press coverage. Reacts extremely well to the ball in the air and has good hands (7 career interceptions). Excellent run-support player who can shed and tackle. Played on both the left and right sides. Top instincts and reactions.
Weak Points –
Can be overly physical, leading to penalties. Might not be the fastest corner. Some clubs might prefer a little taller guy.
Way We See It-
Baker is a fourth-year senior and a two-and-a-half-year starter for the Bulldogs. He has good (not great) height but length helps compensate. Baker is a very physical football player, which shows up both in coverage and run support. He gets off blocks quickly and is a very sure tackler, including delivering some blow-up hits. He is best in press coverage but also plays zone and off-man effectively. Baker is very instinctive and has excellent awareness and anticipation. He reacts very well to the ball in the air and wastes no steps in closing. He keeps good position and is stingy after the catch. He has the skill set to come in and play right away as a rookie. A smart player whom coaches will trust, Baker could be the first corner drafted if he tests well.
Grade A 7.0 Round 1