By RYAN BRAUCH
As the NFL draft quickly approaches, all 32 teams are frantically attempting to rebuild and strengthen their rosters and fill any positional holes they may have. With the draft still three weeks out, teams are analyzing which college players they will target, as scouts and coaches study each player. After last month’s NFL combine and the conclusion of several players’ team workouts, each franchise is getting a better idea of who will best fit their schemes and who they anticipate to bring in.
From a talent standpoint, this draft is absolutely loaded. As always, struggling teams will trip over each other trying to determine which young quarterback will be the next big thing, and which one will be a bust. This year, teams will have a harder time sifting through these signal callers, as there are currently four quarterbacks set to be selected in the first ten picks of the draft. Sam Darnold of the USC, Josh Allen of Wyoming, Josh Rosen of the UCLA and Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma are all being analyzed and scrutinized by every team in the league.
Darnold has been the favorite to go first off the board, likely to the Cleveland Browns who currently hold the first overall pick along with the fourth. Despite Darnold being the favorite, Allen has also slid his name into the conversation and is now considered competition to be the first overall pick. But someone else on the horizon may throw a wrench in these quarterbacks’ plans to be the top pick, and that is Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. Along with Darnold and Allen, Barkley has also made a case for himself to be the top pick. Drawing comparisons to NFL great Adrian Peterson, his outstanding collegiate career and his absolute beastly performance at the combine, Barkley sure would turn any franchise around.
The Browns, who hold the first pick, will have a tough decision to make and may even resort to trading the pick to further improve their roster as the team bolstered their quarterback position by trading for veteran Tyrod Taylor and signing Drew Stanton, so drafting a quarterback may not be the clear decision here. The team also signed running back Carlos Hyde last month so Barkley may also not go number one. If the Browns opt not to select Darnold first overall, the team that immediately follows at two, the New York Giants, have expressed heavy interest in the USC quarterback to take the reigns once franchise quarterback Eli Manning retires. From there, the New York Jets, who hold the third pick will either go for Allen or Rosen to compete with recently signed Teddy Bridgewater for the starting role.
But with the draft still weeks away, it is hard to ignore the rumblings around the league that several teams are looking to move up in the draft. One team in particular are the Buffalo Bills. General manager Brandon Beane has made it obvious he and head coach Sean McDermott are going to be aggressive and after making numerous surprising trades and signings, Beane is not going to stop there. There are talks that the Bills, who currently hold the twelfth and the twenty-second pick, are trying desperately to move up into the top five picks to draft their new franchise quarterback. It has been reported that the Bills are heavily interested in Allen so it will be interesting to see what comes from that situation.
Another team that is now being looked at to possibly trade up in the draft are the New England Patriots. The Patriots just traded a fourth round pick and star wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams for the twenty-third overall pick. Now holding the twenty-third, along with the thirty-first, the Patriots could either trade up to get their replacement for when Tom Brady inevitably retires, or they could use the two picks to improve their defense and offensive line. With the shocking trade of Cooks, the world is wondering what Bill Belichick has up his sleeves.
The saga between Odell Beckham Jr. and the New York Giants could also play a pivotal role in deciding how the draft goes. After expressing thoughts of trading the pro-bowl receiver, the New York Giants could potentially gain an additional first rounder. After the Cooks trade, the Rams, the frontrunners to land Beckham Jr., have now opened the playing field by bowing out of the running for the top notch receiver.
With a little bit under a month till the draft, there are still so many possibilities.