This upcoming weekend, fans of the NFL will be introduced to a new generation of talent as the 81st annual NFL draft is held at Auditorium Theatre in Chicago.
On April 14, the Rams, who moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles this offseason, shocked the NFL world when they made a blockbuster trade with the Tennessee Titans. The Rams traded their first, second and third round picks in this year’s draft, as well as their first and third round pick in next year’s draft to acquire the No.1 overall pick from the Titans. The following week, the Philadelphia Eagles pulled off a similar monster trade with the Cleveland Browns. The Eagles traded their first, third and fourth round picks in this year’s draft, their first round pick in next year’s draft and a second round pick in the 2018 NFL draft, all to acquire the Browns first round pick, which is No. 2 overall. Both of these trades were pulled off for the same reason: a need for a quarterback. Last offseason, the Rams and Eagles actually traded starting quarterbacks, swapping Nick Foles and Sam Bradford respectively. The trade didn’t look great; Foles had the worst year of his career and Bradford looked uncomfortable in a quarterback friendly offense under Chip Kelly.
This year, there are two clear cut quarterback prospects at the top of the draft: Jared Goff of the University of California Berkeley and Carson Wentz of North Dakota State University.Goff, who had just completed his junior season, had decided to forgo his final year of National Collegiate Athletic Association eligibility and declare for the NFL draft. Goff started every game in his career at Cal and the team did progressively better each year. In 2015, Goff set a new record in the Pacific 12 Conference with most passing yards in a season (4,714), beating current NFL star quarterbacks such as Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers. When looking at pro comparisons, Goff compares well with Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons or Eli Manning of the New York Giants. He doesn’t have the biggest arm and isn’t the greatest athlete, but he is fundamentally sound. Many analysts now expect Los Angeles to draft Goff at No.1 overall.
Carson Wentz is a different prospect. At North Dakota State, Wentz competed in Division 1A, playing against a lower level of talent. He didn’t start until his junior year and he missed eight games in his senior year due to injury, leaving him with a small body of work to show teams. However, he did win MVP in the Football Championship Subdivision National Championship game two years in a row, leading the Bison to victories in his junior and senior years.
Athletically, Wentz is a freak. He has great size for a QB at 6-feet-5-inches, 237 pounds and he still ran a 40-yard dash in 4.77 seconds at the NFL combine. He compares well to Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts and reigning league MVP Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers. With Goff likely going at No. 1, Wentz will almost certainly go to Philadelphia at No. 2.
After the first two picks, the draft becomes a lot less clear. At No. 3, the San Diego Chargers will likely select offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil from Ole Miss. The Chargers had one of the worst offensive lines in the league last year, as injuries devastated them. With QB Philip Rivers aging, keeping him clean in the pocket must be a top priority for San Diego.Tunsil is one of the best prospects at the position in many years. He has a massive frame, while still being close to flawless in his technique. He compares best to Tyron Smith of the Dallas Cowboys.
At No. 4 overall, the Dallas Cowboys could look to select a blue chip defensive talent in Ohio State defensive end Joey Bosa. Bosa is a menace off the edge. While he doesn’t have great speed, he is a tremendous physical presence that will give any offensive line a headache.At No. 5, the Jacksonville Jaguars will also be likely looking for defensive help. A great fit for them would be Florida State defensive back Jalen Ramsey. Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley’s previous job was defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks, where he worked with long-limbed, physical corners such as Richard Sherman. While Ramsey is probably a better comparison to Patrick Peterson of the Arizona Cardinals in terms of size and speed, he does posses the physicality that Bradley likes.One prospect who has also benefitted indirectly from the trades for the the top two picks of the draft is University of Memphis QB Paxton Lynch. Lynch is considered by many analysts to be the clear cut No. 3 QB in the draft and the last one with the potential to become a franchise QB.
As Goff and Wentz are all but guaranteed to go No. 1 and No. 2, the interest of Lynch has peaked leading up to the draft. Teams that could be interested are the Cleveland Browns, New York Jets and Denver Broncos. With the NFL Draft right around the corner, it will be interesting to see what moves are done before or after the start of the draft on Thursday, April 28.The Browns QB situation is still unsettled after signing free agent QB Robert Griffin III. Many see the trade with the Eagles as an attempt to gain more picks to repair a depleted roster. The Denver Broncos are bare at QB. After Peyton Manning retired and Brock Osweiler bolted in free agency, the Broncos traded for veteran QB Mark Sanchez with the Eagles. Sanchez is not the long term solution and it would be surprising if the Broncos pass on Lynch if he falls to No. 31 overall.