The NFL Draft is three days away. This is typically when you start to get some overlap in mock drafts as experts begin to come to a consensus based on the buzz they are hearing. Not this year. Why are things so darn muddled? Let’s take a look.
1) No one knows for sure what’s going on with Arizona.
Time to state the obvious — the first pick in the draft has a major impact on all subsequent picks. Shocking revelation, I know. By this time each year, it is typically widely known who will be selected first which allows us to begin guessing how the rest of the draft will fall into place. There are some exceptions, such as last year when we were unsure whether it would be Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold off the board first to the Browns, but instances like that do not have major impacts of how the rest of the draft shapes up. We knew it would go “QB, Saquon Barkley, QB” regardless of which QB was slotted where. Another example — in 2013, we knew it would be Eric Fisher and Luke Joeckel coming off the board at picks one and two with Dion Jordan to follow, we just did not know the order in which the tackles would be selected or that it would be the Dolphins making the selection at three instead of the Raiders.
This year, we can toss the knowledge of the first couple of picks out of the window. Many seem to think it is a foregone conclusion that the Cardinals select Kyler Murray, but the buzz on that is cooling a bit while Nick Bosa and Quinnen Williams are being tossed around as options. If Murray is not the pick, all hell could break loose. The 49ers and Jets both have needs on the defensive line but could also be looking to trade out. The Raiders could think about moving up one or two spots so Jon Gruden can get his hands on Murray. There may be a lot of moving parts from spots two through seven if the Cardinals decide to pass on Murray.
2) There are so many defensive linemen with so little separating them.
Regardless of what happens with the Cardinals, just about every team picking near the top of this draft can use defensive line help. There are plenty of options in that department with very little separating the prospects. Bosa and Josh Allen are the premier EDGE rushers, while Williams and Ed Oliver have both been dubbed “the next Aaron Donald” at some point or another throughout the draft process. Rashan Gary and Christian Wilkins are in that next tier of defensive linemen, but who’s to say the decision makers for one of the teams picking in the top-six are not higher on either of those guys than we suspect? That could cause one of Allen, Bosa, Williams, or Oliver to fall further than expected. There are a handful of spots in the top-10 where we can forecast a defensive lineman coming off the board, but predicting the correct one is another story.
3) The questions surrounding the rest of the QBs and QB-needy teams.
All of the talk about Murray and the Cardinals has distracted us from the rest of the QBs and QB-needy teams that may be maneuvering within the top-10 to get their guy.
Dwayne Haskins has consistently been mocked in the top-10, whether it is to the Giants or another team trading up. Daniel Jones and Drew Lock have also sporadically popped up inside of the top-10 in mock drafts as draft experts begin to forecast trades. The Bengals, Dolphins, Redskins, and Raiders may all be in position to move into the top-10 to select one of those QBs. I mention the Raiders because they may be willing to package the 24th and 27th picks to move into the back end of the top-10 to grab a QB after selecting the best defensive player available with the fourth pick. In past years, there has been more clarity regarding which teams may attempt to trade up for a QB. This year, all of the trade candidates have bridge QBs on their respective rosters. Does that mean they are willing to wait until next year’s QB-heavy draft class to select a franchise player?
If that uncertainty were not already enough, there are all of the questions surrounding how GMs may rank the QBs. In past years, ranking the top signal-callers has been a bit easier. This year, there is almost no feel for how teams value those top few QBs. I personally put Haskins first followed by Jones and then Lock, but there’s a case to be made for any permutation of those three.
Mystery in Arizona, a loaded defensive line class, and an interesting QB landscape will contribute to a very interesting first hour of the draft on Thursday night.