A reverse 2019 NFL mock draft, where the players choose their teams


The NFL Draft, like most things in football, has everything backwards. In any other job, the top performers out of college or professional school would have their pick of potential offers. They would select the one they liked most based on salary, location, benefits, and other intangibles like proximity to family, culture, and number of Whataburger locations within driving distance of the office.

That last one isn’t accurate. Eat a honey butter chicken biscuit for breakfast and seven hours and five handwashings later the hands will still stick to a steering wheel. Whataburger is so very tangible — perhaps too tangible at times. This may not seem relevant to a discussion of the NFL Draft, but I assure you: It very much is.

College football botches this by half. Recruits can sort through offers, but technically receive only the compensation of a free education for their labor. For instance, they might attend practice after going to philosophy, where they would encounter the Liar’s Paradox. One version of that classic logical paradox would be this sentence: I am a liar, so trust me when I say that no one has ever paid a college football player under the table to attend their school.

After three or four years of college messing up their job situation, pro football then botches the other half of the equation for players. Players get paid for real this time — an improvement! — but instead lose a lot of their ability to choose their first employer out of college. If a player wants to play professional American football at the highest level, they have to do it in the NFL. And if they want to play in the NFL, they have to enter the draft, where teams select them, not the other way around.

When we talk about the NFL Draft, that dynamic equals talking about “what the Jets need” and not “What the player needs, which in all likelihood is not playing for the Jets, something very few players in the history of the NFL have ever needed or wanted.” No one loves or cares about the Jets as a company, not even the ownership. (Maybe especially the ownership, now that I think about it.)

The players, in a perfect world, should be able to choose. If the top 15 players or so did this for the 2019 draft, then we might be talking about their decision process something like this.

An ever-so-slightly undersized quarterback from Texas with undeniable arm talent and an Air Raid pedigree needs a few things. He will need a coach able to work with his talents, not against his literal and figurative shortcomings. He will need a low-stakes franchise where success is measured not in championships, but maybe in terms like “got to the Super Bowl once, and that was pretty great, and no, we aren’t going to talk about how the game went!”

He’ll need time and patience. A lack of intense media scrutiny until he gets his sea legs as a starter would be nice, too. Some place to fake it until he makes it, or signs with a better franchise after putting up big offensive numbers for an entertaining but damned 6-10 team. Some place to show his potential, but not cash it in completely for a lost cause of a franchise.

He’s also from Allen, Texas. In order to attain peak performance, our man will need the aforementioned Whataburger availability, blazing temperatures, a desolate landscape to feel at home in, and access to only the finest chain restaurants in America. There is really only one choice here — the actual place he’s most likely to go in the 2019 NFL Draft anyway.

Sign with: Arizona Cardinals

Generally accepted status as surefire first-round hit for a team desperately in need of a pass rusher. Spent a lot of time in dreary-ass Ohio, and probably wants some sunshine after all that permacloud. Loves him some President Donald Trump; hates Beyonce and Black Panther. Has rocked a headband and long hair. Likely needs a city with a barbell gym, while preferring a state with no income tax or semblance of social services.

It’s either Texas or Florida then, and here’s where we have to get granular. Houston is out, Beyonce will not let him live there. (She has that power.) Dallas has occasional freak ice storms. Having no tattoos, the Miami Dolphins — and living in South Florida again in general — are off the board.

This leaves Tampa and Jacksonville. The lack of tats, no obvious fondness for death metal, and Bosa’s huge but lean physique eliminate Tampa. (Cuban food = at least three carbohydrates per meal, a no-go for lean bulk.) Jacksonville has fresh fish, which Bosa eats slabs of, and a professional football franchise that nearly made the Super Bowl two years ago. That still happened in real life!

Sign with: Jacksonville Jaguars

Let me just say this: Josh Allen was brilliant toiling in obscurity at Kentucky, more brilliant than even his high draft rating might show. He was all over the place, so present in everything Kentucky did well that you could tell us anything about his time there and I would believe you. Tell me he played tight end for five games and caught seven TDs. Could be true. Wouldn’t even check the film.

He’s delightful even after getting paddled in high school in Alabama for his grades. (This is somehow still a thing in the 2010s.) I want him to succeed. Success requires comfort, and comfort requires some degree of familiarity.

So: Allen needs a team where he can shine in the dark, leading the way in an otherwise abysmal pit of bad football. In college, Josh Allen crawled through 500 yards of dismal Kentucky football to lead them to a clean 10-3 season on the other side. The NFL has nothing to compare with that journey.

Except: The Bills.

Oh God, the Bills still exist, and I want Allen to be happy, and it seems like being a happy football player in Buffalo long-term is a really low-probability kind of event.

Then again, I’d say the same for Kentucky, and Allen thrived there. Maybe he can’t be broken, this man. Maybe being the light in the gloom is his destiny. Maybe, with the Bills signaling they would consider taking a defensive lineman in the first round, Allen is the spiritual leader this team — nay, this city needs to lead them to the promised land.

Or you could just go be rich and shirtless for five years in Miami. That seems a lot easier.

Sign with: Miami Dolphins

Still calls his grandmother “Mrs. Henderson.” Is nicknamed “Big Baby,” and still has braces. Had this moment with the media before the Oklahoma game.

Williams is a fluid killing machine on the field — a big, cuddly, and very shy killing machine. I want him to go to a very gentle place fond of very un-gentle defensive line play. I want him in like, two hours driving distance of his family, too, because despite all the film where it looks like he’s teleporting through double-teams as a 300-pound nose guard, he still has braces.

Atlanta is three hours and 55 minutes away from Tuscaloosa. Nashville is three hours and 52 minutes away from Williams’ hometown.

Sign with: Tennessee Titans

No one’s quite sure what to make of the top running QB in the draft.

As someone who watched him a fair bit in college, I’ll sincerely try to help.

The one thing I definitely know about Haskins: He already knows that it is very smart to get the ball to fast people quickly, and then let them do the work. This seems basic, but a lot of college quarterbacks never learn this. This refusal to learn the value of a checkdown can be awesome viewing: See Rex Grossman, RGIII in college, or even Russell Wilson, who was an accomplished and shockingly efficient chuck-and-ducker in college.

Haskins can throw a nice deep ball. He also wisely lets fallen leaves rot on the grass as natural fertilizer instead of sweeping them up, and sets out his clothes for the next day ahead of time. He is on his way to being a work smarter, not harder kind of dude already, is what I’m saying.

To that point: Haskins was calling swing pass audibles in high school. So if someone could just put him in at QB for the Giants and have him throw a hundred short passes to Saquon Barkley in the flat, that would be great.

He’s ideal in more ways than one. The sometimes miserable life of a New York football player is fine here: Haskins originally committed to Maryland, and then switched to Ohio State. Quality of life is obviously not a top concern, nor is good weather or cost of living. Haskins is fine riding trains and eating hot pressed sandwiches standing up for the rest of his life.

Giants fans wouldn’t even have to adjust to new flaws. Eli Manning has slow feet? Well, the big knock on Haskins is slow feet, too. It’s not a flaw, Giants fans. It’s tradition.

Sign with: New York Giants

Jawann Taylor, offensive tackle

Big, mean offensive lineman who allowed one sack on passing downs during his whole career at Florida. Zero buzz because he’s a lineman, and because he’s played most of those downs for Gators teams stuck in rebuild or demolition mode. In a normal draft where teams pick, Bill Belichick would somehow get him in the third round for two 2009 fourth-round picks and 17 American dollars, because the Patriots are smart and very few other teams are.

Based on what we know about him in a scenario where he got to pick his own team, Jawann Taylor probably doesn’t care much and just wants to take the shortest distance between him and destroying defensive linemen.

The closest franchise to Gainesville is the Jaguars. Taylor can be on the practice field in pads in Jacksonville in like, an hour 45 tops with traffic. He will be, because I am telling you that he is on his way right now. You need to get ready, and you need to not forget your mouthpiece.

Sign with: Jacksonville Jaguars

Just spent a significant amount of time in charming but very tiny Starkville, Mississippi.


Wait. Which one we talking here?

Sign with: ANY OF THEM

Oliver’s family is from Houston. He grew up in Houston. A five-star recruit coming out of high school, Oliver turned down offers from bigger programs to become the first five-star recruit to play football at the University of Houston.

At this point in his life, Oliver might want to look outside of Texas. Embrace change, broaden the horizons a bit. Go someplace where J.J. Watt won’t be stealing the limelight from you on the defensive line, or maybe someplace where the average humidity isn’t 75 percent. If you thought I’m making that number up, I am not. Houston is both a city and a type of stew.

Then again, there’s this:

Oliver would never voluntarily leave Texas for work. And in this draft, he doesn’t have to.

Sign with: Houston Texans

Already has a Tennessee walking horse.

Sign with: Tennessee Titans

Needs a franchise that will understand a quarterback with a good arm, a fearless attitude, and the occasional need to throw a perfect ball screaming right into the hands of someone on the other team. Is listed as “J.D. McCoy” in teammates’ phones. Could use some time somewhere relatively exotic after a lifetime in Missouri.

Note: “Relatively exotic.”

Sign with: Dallas Cowboys

Listen: Most of these will end with me suggesting someone go somewhere warm where they can be young, wealthy, and comfortable.

This is not one of those. Devin Bush runs down the line of scrimmage like a crab at the beach hauling ass to get away from a seagull. He’s smart and terrifyingly good at play recognition, and he needs someone who will take what is already a terrifyingly good football crab and turn it into an awe-inspiring megafootball crab.

They don’t even need a linebacker, really, but there’s only one place to send him to become the brainiest telepathic misery machine possible. Yes, there, the most miserable and successful place in the NFL. But maybe he doesn’t want to be cold and miserable. Bush went to Michigan. Cold and sometimes miserable places full of nerds do not dissuade Bush in the least.

Sign with: New England Patriots

An Iowa native, meaning that by law he has to move to Chicago after graduating.

Sign with: Chicago Bears

Went to high school at a small prep school in New England, then went to Clemson, where he learned that being cold is absolutely a choice in this life. That choice usually runs in one direction: Cold climate to warm climate, and very rarely in the reverse order. Wilkins is also notoriously frugal, and known for bumming rides with teammates to save money.*

*Actually true!

That points to signing with a team in a warm, walkable place with an affordable cost of living, and a need for a do-it-all defensive lineman. This describes nowhere in the United States, a country so smart its cold cities require walking, and its warm cities all but require sitting inside steaming cars for 45 minutes to get anywhere. Was this where you expected to read about the failure of American transit planning? No, but we’re here, aren’t we?

There is one city that is fairly warm, scores really well on walkability, is at least more affordable than its derangedly expensive neighbor across the bay, and adores athletes who hit the community involvement component of pro sports life hard.

Sign with: Oakland Raiders

Metcalf can run faster in a straight line than any DB covering him. He’s the overpowered muscle car of available receivers — right down to the high price tag, lack of adequate brakes, and complete inability to turn quickly. He needs an offensive mind capable and willing of getting him the ball on huge go routes and easy end-arounds. He needs someone who can do that in a creative fashion. He needs a quarterback who can throw the ball 60 yards like he’s hitting a three-yard checkdown.

Does anyone know a team that can do this —

Yes, Jon Bois had to put all these different frames together just to get all the distance Pat Mahomes covered with one pass into a single frame
A collage by Jon Bois

Tyreek Hill and Metcalf running through the back wall of the stadium 11 or 12 times a game and leaving cartoon silhouette-shaped holes of their profiles in the concrete seems delightful to me.

Sign with: Kansas City Chiefs

Everyone may remember defensive lineman Ferrell for getting 11.5 sacks and 20 tackles for loss during Clemson’s 2018 title run. They may remember that, or that he remixed Suge Knight’s COME TO DEATH ROW speech with teammate Christian Wilkins at the championship game.

Either way, he’s memorable, and now also kind of has to go somewhere on the West Coast for branding reasons.

With Wilkins already enjoying walkable Oakland, putting Ferrell somewhere in Los Angeles only makes sense as the remaining available member of an iconic West Coast-affiliated duo. He’s also from Richmond, Virginia. Just in case Ferrell ever wanted a city that was the exact opposite of Richmond in every way, it would be Los Angeles.

The Rams couldn’t be the pick. Putting him on the same defensive line as Aaron Donald would be excessive, too much, a nauseating combination of power and speed. No one with any sense of taste or proportion would do this to any football league, much less the decorous, respectful ranks of the National Football League.

I have no taste or sense of proportion.

Sign with: LA Rams


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