Now that the 2018 NFL Draft is about to get starting, speculation and rumors are nearing an end. Soon, the league’s 32 teams will met in Dallas to forever change the landscape of the NFL. How many quarterbacks will go in the first round? Who are the Browns going to take No. 1 overall? Are the Patriots going to move up for a signal caller of their own? These are major stories to follow in Round 1.
Though, there’s a lot more to look at here. The top two players in the draft, Quenton Nelson and Saquon Barkley, could be looking at dramatic slides down the draft board. Meanwhile, there’s a decent chance we’ll see a star or two moved on Day 1.
Here’s a look at the top storylines for Round 1 of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Who will the Browns take at No. 1?
It’s starting to look a lot like Cleveland will make the unpopular decision to select Wyoming’s Josh Allen with the first overall pick. Unless it’s not. GM John Dorsey and Co. could very well be going full smokescreen in the days leading up to the annual event in Dallas.
In reality, we’re not going to know the Browns’ pick until they’re actually on the clock. That sets up for drama we have not seen during the draft in some time. It could be Allen. Heck, Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield (coming on strong of late) could very well be the pick here. One thing we know is that the Browns will pick No. 1 Thursday evening. Said pick will be a quarterback. Outside of that, everything is up in the air here.
Expect a lot of movement in the top 10
More so than in previous seasons, we’re going to see a ton of trades at the top of the 2018 NFL Draft. While the Browns expect to stand pat at No. 1, four of the next five picks could be up for sale. That includes the New York Giants selecting at No. 2 overall and these very same Browns picking fourth. There are reports out there indicating that New York has the framework for a deal worked out with Buffalo should the player the Bills want ultimately be there at two.
Meanwhile, the Denver Broncos at five and Indianapolis Colts at six have said that they’re open for business. Heck, even the San Francisco 49ers could be open for business with the ninth overall pick. That’s what happens when a draft class is absolutely loaded at quarterback and teams in position to land one don’t necessarily need a signal caller.
We fully expect four quarterbacks to go within the top-10 picks and a minimum of five signal callers to be selected in Round 1. Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen are all seemingly locks to be off the board on Day 1. Momentum is also building regarding Lamar Jackson being a first-round pick despite what has become a vocal group of naysayers pertaining to the former Heisman winner.
The outlier here could very well be a quarterback in Mason Rudolph, who is also drawing interest from teams selecting late in the first round. Pure conjecture here, but that group could include the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots (more on them later) and New Orleans Saints.
The Quenton Nelson dynamic
Of non-quarterbacks slated to go early in the draft, this former Notre Dame guard is among the most intriguing. There’s not a single hole in Nelson’s game. He’s viewed as a sure-fire long-term starter with Day 1 All-Pro ability. That’s a rarity in the NFL Draft. The issue here is that Nelson plays a position that’s seemingly not viewed as all-too important around the league. Does this mean the first-round lock will somehow drop come Thursday evening?
There are two logical landing spots within the top five — the New York Giants and Denver Broncos. Outside of that, the Colts (sixth overall) and Chicago Bears (eighth overall) both have needs at guard. Rounding out the top 10, San Francisco (pass rush) and Oakland (secondary) seemingly have larger needs. This could potentially push Nelson out of the top 10 altogether. Then again, the Giants could make him the second overall pick. Nelson is an intriguing storyline to follow here.
Buffalo Bills angling for a trade up
It’s readily apparent that Buffalo is looking to add a franchise quarterback in this year’s draft. Why else would the team trade Tyrod Taylor, only to replace him with a career backup in A.J. McCarron? Moving up from the 21st pick to 12th overall in the Cordy Glenn trade is also a clear indication that GM Brandon Beane and Co. are angling for a quarterback.
Depending on how the top of the draft plays out, Buffalo has the assets necessary to make blockbuster trade into the top five and is reportedly desperate to do so. Boasting two picks in each of the first three rounds, there’s a treasure trove of possibilities here. That includes moving all the way up to No. 2 with New York, especially given Beane’s history with new Giants GM Dave Gettleman. It’s obviously one of the biggest stories heading into Round 1 Thursday.
Odell Beckham Jr. trade rumors
The Giants have now made it clear that OBJ will be with the team next season. Whether that’s the team’s attempt to sweeten trade offers it receives remains to be seen. But we’re not going to see an end to these trade rumors until Round 1 of the draft is completed. Should teams selecting in the top half of the first round see players they’re targeting fall off the board, New York might receive a trade offer it can’t refuse. That includes the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens.
There’s still seemingly a massive split between Beckham and the Giants in extension talks. He’s entering the final year of his rookie deal. If another squad offers New York close to its asking price of two first-round picks, it would not be a shock to see first-year GM Dave Gettleman pull the trigger. It’s an underrated storyline heading into Round 1.
Will Saquon Barkley fall in the draft?
There are four logical landing spots within the first six picks for this generational running back. The earliest Barkley will find himself off the board is at No. 2 overall to the Giants. That’s been bandied about at great length recently. Picking No. 1 overall, Cleveland could throw a wrench into this idea. If the team selects anyone outside of Sam Darnold with that pick, it’s more than likely New York will go with the USC product.
The Cleveland Browns, Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts — picking four-through-six respectively — all have needs at running back. In fact, neither Denver nor Indianapolis boast a returning rusher that put up as much as 400 yards last season. As with a lot of teams picking in the top 10, all three are in the market to trade down. The idea would be for other squads picking outside of the top 10 to move up for a quarterback. If so, Barkley himself could potentially fall out of that range.
Same question for Josh Rosen
We’ve read the reports that teams are worried about Rosen’s personality and lack of maturity. Add in injury issues, and there’s a decent chance Rosen slips much further than one might expect come Thursday evening in Dallas. Unlike Barkley, who many have pegged as the top player in the class, said fall likely won’t be outside of the top 10. And that’s where it gets interesting.
The San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders — picking ninth and 10th respectively — seem to be logical spots for a trade down. That includes the likes of Miami, Buffalo and New England all potentially vying for the right to move up for Rosen. It will surely make for an interesting top-10 picks. Though, a fall to that area would be massive given Rosen is seen by scouts as the top quarterback in the class with Sam Darnold.
The Eagles and Pick No. 32
Round 1 likely won’t end without some late-night drama. Let’s say the top-five quarterbacks in the class are already off the board when the defending champs pick at 32. This could enable Philadelphia to receive a bounty from a team that missed out in a signal caller earlier in the first round. It’s somewhat similar to the Minnesota Vikings trading up for the rights to Teddy Bridgewater at 32 a few years back.
The idea here is for said team to be given the right to add a fifth year to a rookie quarterback’s contract. In this case, said quarterback could either by Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph or Richmond product Kyle Lauletta. Pure conjecture here, but look for the New York Giants, Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins to be in play for the 32nd pick.
Character will play a role in team assessments
From LSU standout Arden Key to teammate Derrius Guice, there’s a lot of off-field questions surrounding some of the most-talented prospects in the class. Despite boasting top-10 talent, recent reports suggest that Key could fall all the way to the fourth round. Nagging injury concerns and off-field problems continue to plague the elite pass-rush talent. Maturity issues seem to be the name of the game for a player in Guice who would normally be a top-15 pick. Will this lead to the running back dropping out of Round 1 altogether?
As mentioned above, UCLA quarterback Josn Rosen has been mentioned as a potential Round 1 faller. The same could be said for cornerback Mike Hughes (sexual assault allegations). It will be telling to see just how much NFL teams value character when drawing a conclusion. Saying something publicly or leaking through anonymous sources is one thing. Putting your money where your mouth is…well, that’s much different.
The New England Patriots
This could very well be the top Round 1 storyline outside of the top-five picks. By virtue of moving Jimmy Garoppolo and Brandin Cooks over the past several months, the two-time defending AFC champs have four selections in the first two rounds. New England was initially linked to Josh Rosen in a trade-up scenario following the Cooks trade. It has also shown interest in former Heisman Winner Lamar Jackson as an heir apparent to Tom Brady.
The issue with these Pats looking to trade up is that they have a ton of holes all over the field. After all, Bill Belichick and Co. lost starters Dion Lewis, Nate Solder, Brandin Cooks and Malcolm Butler from last year’s conference championship squad. Are the Pats willing to mortgage short-term success for long-term viability in trading up for a quarterback? It’s a massive storyline for Round 1.
Weak draft class at WR could mean value later
At this point, it’s hard to imagine any wide receiver going within the top-20 picks of the draft. Baltimore was seen as a logical landing spot at 16, but the additions of three veteran receivers in free agency mitigates that a little bit. In need of help at receiver, it’s hard to fathom the 49ers, Bills or Redskins exhausting early first-round picks at this position.
Instead, we’re likely going to see a major run of wide receivers later in the first round and moving into Day 2. Depending on who you ask, Courtland Sutton or Calvin Ridley is the top receiver in the class. Though, LSU’s D.J. Chark, Maryland’s D.J. Moore, Washington’s Dante Pettis, Clemson’s Deon Cain and A&M’s Christian Kirk are all just a notch behind the two. Picking in the bottom 12 of the first round, Carolina, Jacksonville and New England could look for value at wide receiver.
New York Giants at two
How the Giants handle their selection at No. 2 overall will set the tone for the remainder of Round 1. If the team does indeed decide to go Saquon Barkley, it opens up the possibility of multiple squads trading up for the top quarterbacks remaining on the board outside of the signal caller Cleveland selects at No. 1 and the Jets opt for at three. If New York decides to go in another direction with say Sam Darnold or Bradley Chubb, the entire dynamic of the top 10 also changes on a dime.
Then again, there’s a reasonable expectation that the Giants simply look to trade down. If they find an offer to their liking from Buffalo or Miami, the Giants could very well attempt to acquire draft pick assets in the vein of the Indianapolis Colts. Remember, Indy picked up three second-round picks from the Jets in a trade down from No. 3 overall to the sixth pick.