Days after the mid-point between the Super Bowl and the start of the 2019 NFL season, what better way to fill the time than the 3rd annual UK Dynasty rookie draft? After the drama of a huge trade for the first overall pick prior to last year’s draft, the trading floor was eerily quiet in the week leading up to this year’s extravaganza.
But with some surprising picks and 3 trades in the 1st round, it was worth the wait.
Round 1 in brief
1.01: N’Keal Harry, WR, NEP - Hereford Chargers
1.02: Josh Jacobs, RB, OAK - Flitwick Fireflies
1.03: David Montgomery, RB, CHI - Oxford Pythons
1.04: DK Metcalf, WR, SEA - Gateshead Spartans
1.05: Miles Sanders, RB, PHI - Irish Flyers
1.06: AJ Brown, WR, TEN - Derby Otters
1.07: Parris Campbell, WR, IND - Hereford Chargers
1.08: TJ Hockenson, TE, DET - Oxford Pythons
1.09: Darrell Henderson, RB, LAR - Oxford Seahawks
1.10: Deebo Samuel, WR, SFO - Wigan Wombats
1.11: Noah Fant, TE, DEN - Gateshead Spartans
1.12: Andy Isabella, WR, ARI - Oxford Pythons
Saturday 25th May 2019
Pick 1 - Hereford Chargers, N’Keal Harry WR
One year ago, the 1.01 was a mere formality with Saquon Barkley autodrafted in almost 100% of leagues as the top rookie drafted. This year, it’s not so simple. The Chargers made their decision within an hour of the start of the draft, and elected to select N’Keal Harry with the first overall pick.
It’s the second draft in a row in which Hereford are picking in the top two - their 2018 second overall pick Derrius Guice is yet to play an NFL snap - and they will be hoping that the player that the Patriots deemed worthy of their NFL Draft first round selection will make a marked difference to their chance of improving their record in 2019.
“I’m very happy with the pick,” said Chargers GM Jason Reese. “I was impressed at the combine with his skill and when he went to the Pats, I was happy. I see him being a day one starter.”
The Chargers WR room could certainly be said to be the weak link of the roster. Reese will hope that Harry quickly usurps the projected starting trio of Calvin Ridley, Will Fuller and Marqise Lee.
Pick 2 - Flitwick Fireflies, Josh Jacobs RB
The Fireflies didn’t get a chance to make a pick in the 2018 draft: Mike took over the ownership of the floundering Bradford Championz franchise a week after the draft was complete, and immediately rebranded. The Championz were kind enough to leave behind a roster full of aged non-producers, who made it near-impossible for Mike to avoid a last-placed finish and the Johnny. Alas, somehow they stumbled into second-from-last, and the 2019 1st round pick left behind by the Championz slotted in at 1.02.
With the Chargers taking Harry, the Fireflies were quick (immediate, in fact) to select Raiders’ RB Josh Jacobs out of Alabama. With only Leonard Fournette as a sure starter (as sure as Fournette gets…), Flitwick had a gaping hole at the position. “As a team with only one definite starter at the position, Jacobs is the ideal start to what will hopefully be a fruitful draft.” said GM Ki-Fun.
The Fireflies have 6 more picks in later rounds; this will be an important draft for the future of the franchise.
Pick 3 - Oxford Pythons, David Montgomery RB
There were whispers of a possible trade at this pick, but discussions must have been hard and fast, because it didn’t take long for the Pythons to give up on them, write ‘David Montgomery’ on their card, and put the pick in.
The Pythons add to an RB room featuring Devonta Freeman, Derrick Henry and Tevin Coleman, with Montgomery vying to fill the space that Jordan Howard vacated in Chicago after his pre-NFL draft trade to the Philadelphia Eagles.
“We loved the tape” Pythons GM Olly Conway said. “We loved the tape, we loved the stats, loved the landing spot.”
This was the first of three 1st round picks for the Pythons this year, having only made one pick in the 1st round in prior league history. That one pick, in 2017, was Dalvin Cook, however, and they also acquired Alvin Kamara with a 2nd round pick later in that same draft, so their scouting history for running backs speaks highly of Montgomery’s future, unless any of that can be attributed to luck.
Pick 4 - Gateshead Spartans, DK Metcalf WR
TRADE: Spartans give up 3.10, 2020 1st, 2020 3rd and Josh Allen (QB) to acquire the 1.04 from the Oxford Seahawks
2018’s fourth overall pick was a Seattle draftee in Rashaad Penny, and the Pacific North-West was once again responsible for providing the fourth pick of this year’s draft. Moments after the completion of the trade, the Gateshead Spartans named wide receiver DK Metcalf as their selection.
“The one guy I really wanted in this whole draft was Metcalf,” said Spartans GM Chris Copeland. “I bought into the hype and I’m excited to see what he can do in what feels like a perfect landing spot for him.”
The (Oxford) Seahawks were poised to make the pick, but with trade interest from a number of teams, elected to move the pick and pick up some 2020 draft capital and a much-needed backup QB to Russell Wilson. “We felt that acquiring Josh Allen here gives us much-needed insurance at the position, and the ability to make picks based on our board rather than need later in the draft.” said GM Dan Abrey.
Pick 5 - Irish Flyers, Miles Sanders RB
TRADE: The Flyers give up Adam Thielen, Tom Brady and their 2020 4th round pick to acquire the 1.05 and WR John Ross from the Gateshead Spartans
Having taken Sanders’ Penn State RB-mate Saquon Barkley first overall in last year’s draft, it was well-known pre-draft that Flyers GM Dermy McAlinden was keen on the Eagles back.
They made their move and gave up last season’s WR8 in the process, but when you want the guy, you gotta do what you gotta do. The Flyers revealed that they nearly gave up future 1st round draft capital to move up ahead of the Spartans for pick 4. “I got the player I wanted without giving up the 1st,” McAlinden said at the post-draft press conference.
“When the Spartans selected DK (Metcalf) I pushed harder to get the 1.05. I didn’t just select Sanders because he’s an Eagle, although that did play a part. He is not just a great runner but also has great hands and from the tape I’ve watched he will definitely be involved this season. Howard will be the RB1 this year and Sanders is more a pick for next season, but given an injury to Howard he could be a back-end RB1/high RB2.”
Pick 6 - Derby Otters, AJ Brown WR
The Otters have displayed a penchant for moving out of the first round in the past - in fact, this is their first 1st round pick in league history - but they saw Ole Miss receiver AJ Brown as worthy of that accolade.
Some analysts have begrudgingly moved Brown down their rankings after he was drafted by receiver-hellhole the Tennessee Titans in the ‘real’ draft, but the Otters had no concerns about making him a top 6 pick.
“I’m hoping he’s an amalgamation of AJ Green and Antonio Brown,” said Otters GM Chris Shepherd. “While being less of a dick.”
Pick 7 - Hereford Chargers, Parris Campbell WR
Following the selection of N’Keal Harry first overall, the Chargers doubled down at receiver with their second pick in the draft. Ohio State WR Parris Campbell, drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of the NFL draft, joins Harry in shoring up the Chargers’ previously lacking wide receiver room.
“He is another guy who I liked the look of and knew I had to have,” GM Jason Reese said, with some muted sniggering at the back of the conference room. “I’m hoping with Luck back to himself and Campbell’s skill, they will be a match made in heaven.”
Pick 8 - Oxford Pythons, TJ Hockenson TE
The much-lauded 2019 tight end class provided its first contribution to the UKD rookie draft at pick 8, with the Oxford Pythons picking up Iowa end TJ Hockenson.
The Pythons don’t really have a long-term answer at TE - Ben Watson is closer to collecting his pension than his degree, while the other TEs on the roster are in rotational situations - and Hockenson could be a high-end producer at the position for the foreseeable future.
“I like to make up nicknames for tight ends,” GM Olly Conway told reporters at the post-draft presser. “I’d dubbed TJ ‘The Naked Yoghurt’. After that I couldn’t get him out of my thoughts.”
Pick 9 - Oxford Seahawks, Darrell Henderson RB
The Seahawks made their first pick of the draft at ninth overall, having given up the chance to draft at 1.04 earlier in the afternoon. They made LA Rams’ running back Darrell Henderson the fourth RB off the board.
Henderson contributed over 2000 all-purpose yards and 25 touchdowns at Memphis in his junior season in 2018, and was drafted by the Rams in the third round of the NFL draft.
“I think he can produce decent numbers even if Rams incumbent Todd Gurley is fully fit, and that’s a big if,” GM Dan Abrey said. “If Gurley’s 2018 arthritis scare is as scary as it has sounded at times, his value could skyrocket. He was in our top two RBs before the NFL draft and we were happy to draft him at this spot.”
Pick 10 - Wigan Wombats, Deebo Samuel WR
TRADE: The Wombats gave up 2.04 and their 2020 2nd to move up to 1.10, with the Oxford Seahawks also giving up their 2020 4th in return
The Seahawks moved out of a first round pick for the second time today, picking up a 2020 2nd in the process. “We had several names on our board at this point and felt that the real value was in trading back into the middle of the 2nd round and picking up some extra 2020 ammunition,” said Seahawks GM Dan Abrey. The Wombats were keen to move up into the end of the first round with a specific goal in mind: a 49ers wide receiver.
The Wombats have no prior history of drafting first round receivers - their 3 previous first round picks having been at RB and TE - but South Carolina prospect Samuel was alluring enough to break that trend.
“We planned coming into the draft to trade up into the late first as there was a good chance that a couple of receivers we liked would be available,” said Wombats GM Jonathan Moffatt. “The commish drives a hard bargain, but we’re pleased that we eventually came to an agreement.”
“Deebo proved his route-running ability in college and should get plenty of snaps in the Niners offense right away, which will hopefully translate into fantasy production.”
Pick 11 - Gateshead Spartans, Noah Fant TE
The Spartans, with a WR room bolstered by the drafting of DK Metcalf and acquisition of Adam Thielen via trade, pivoted to fill a need at tight end with the 11th overall pick. With college teammate TJ Hockenson already off the board, Iowa and now-Denver Bronco TE Noah Fant joins David Njoku (and Jimmy Graham) at the position for the Spartans.
The Spartans spoke highly of Fant in the post-draft press conference, making it clear that he was their main target for this pick.
“Getting Fant at 11 was what I was hoping for coming into this draft,” said GM Copeland. “I think he’s going to have the most fantasy upside at the TE position in this class, and it was definitely a need for the Spartans to have some more depth at the position.”
Pick 12 - Oxford Pythons, Andy Isabella WR
The Cardinals’ offense could hardly be described as ‘potent’ in 2018 - they created a putrid 3865 yards of total offense, 800 yards shy of the next worst offense (the Dolphins) and less than Cleveland’s passing yards (!). Both the Cardinals and Pythons GM Olly Conway will be hoping that their acquisition of Kliff Kingsbury as head coach, and first overall pick Kyler Murray at QB, will spice things up in Arizona.
Isabella was this time last year considered a track star, not an NFL-level football player, but a highly productive senior season in which he caught 102 balls for nearly 1700 yards and 12 touchdowns sent his draft stock way up.
The Cardinals made him their second round ‘real’ draft pick, and the Pythons made him their third selection of the first round after David Montgomery and TJ Hockenson earlier in the afternoon.
“I think we may look back on this day and wonder how Isabella fell all the way down to 1.12,” said Conway. “Steal of the draft.”
Receiver was a need for the Pythons after their star WR Tyreek Hill had a less-than-positive 2019 off-season, to put it mildly.