It’s been a long few months, but the NFL Draft is right around the corner. In exactly one week, we’ll know who the first overall pick is, what the Patriots think of Jimmy Garoppolo, and who will play quarterback for the Browns (probably).
There are an unfathomable amount of rumors and smokescreens flying around right now as teams look to deceive others with leaks, so it’s hard to pin down exactly what will happen. However, with just seven days until the action kicks off, we’ve cooked up 10 bold predictions for next week’s big event.
Three quarterbacks will be taken in the first round
This is a difficult quarterback class to pin down. None of the top guys are considered franchise quarterbacks, but teams always overdraft players at that position. So while none of them are locks to be successful in the NFL, three will be taken in the first round.
There are simply too many teams with needs at quarterback for only one or two to be drafted in the first. The Browns, 49ers, Bears and Texans are the prime candidates to select quarterbacks, while the Saints and Cardinals could also do the same.
In the end, though, Mitchell Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes will go in the first. Which leads me to my next point …
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The 49ers will take a QB at No. 2
The 49ers have done a lot of homework on these quarterbacks. They’ve worked out Watson, Trubisky and Mahomes multiple times, so they’re clearly looking closely at one of them.
When it comes time for them to make a pick at No. 2, I believe they’ll take one of those quarterbacks, and I think it’ll be Trubisky. He fits well in Kyle Shanahan’s offense, and the impact he can have compared to someone like Solomon Thomas is far greater.
Of course, his floor is far lower, and there’s a larger chance he busts, but John Lynch and Shanahan need to leave their mark in their first draft. Watch for San Francisco to take a quarterback and surprise a lot of people at No. 2.
The Patriots will trade Malcolm Butler to the Saints …
The Saints and Patriots appear to be on a crash course to strike a deal for Butler. It just makes too much sense for both sides. The Saints need a cornerback, the Patriots need a first-round pick.
Now that Butler has signed his RFA tender, the two sides can work out a trade. Sean Payton had said the Saints wouldn’t give up the 11th pick by signing him to an offer sheet, but the 32nd pick is certainly on the table.
That should be the compensation New England goes after, and then some. If the Patriots can land that pick and then one in, say, the fourth or fifth, they should do it. In a deep cornerback class, they could land a starter in the later rounds to replace Butler.
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… and Jimmy Garoppolo to the Browns
The second deal New England makes will involve Garoppolo. Nick Caserio, the Patriots’ director of player personnel, left the door open this week when discussing the possibility of Garoppolo being traded, saying this:
"Anything that we do, we're always going to do what we think is in the best interest of our football team, and that's how we approach it," Caserio said. "That's not going to change. Whatever you think is best for our team for 2017, for that season, then that's what we'll do.”
He added that the focus is to put together the “best possible team for the 2017 season.” In what world does keeping Garoppolo give the Patriots’ the best team for next season? As long as Brady’s healthy, Garoppolo won’t see the field.
The Browns will see Trubisky come off the board at No. 2 to the 49ers, call Belichick and offer them the 12th pick, as well as a second-rounder next year.
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At least 20 defensive backs will be taken in the first two rounds
You may have heard that this class is deep in the secondary. Really deep. Some have called it the best cornerback/safety class of the last decade, which is a testament to just how much talent there is from top to bottom.
In the first two rounds, there will be at least 20 defensive backs taken. Out of 64 picks, that would be a huge number, obviously, and it goes along the lines of today’s NFL where you can never have enough cover guys.
Marshon Lattimore, Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker are all likely to go in the top 10, while there are second-round players like Budda Baker, Chidobe Awuzie, Ahkello Witherspoon and Josh Jones who will be Day 1 starters in the NFL despite not going in Round 1.
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No offensive linemen will go in the top 15 for the first time since the merger
Not once since 1970 has every offensive lineman fallen out of the top 15. That’ll happen this year for the first time ever as none will be taken within the first 15 picks. It’s a combination of teams in the top 15 not necessarily needing linemen, and the fact that there aren’t any elite talents.
The run on offensive linemen will begin with the Ravens at 16 as they’ll be looking to possibly add a right tackle. There are simply too many good defensive players in this draft for teams to pass on them in order to take a mediocre lineman. The same goes for running backs, with potentially three going in the top 15.
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Joe Mixon will go to the Bengals in the second round
Mixon is a first-round talent. He also has the character of an undrafted free agent. Despite those large discrepancies, a team will take him in the second round, and that team will be the Bengals.
Cincinnati has done as much work on Mixon as most other teams, meeting with him at his pro day and hosting him for a private workout. The Bengals are an ideal fit for Mixon considering how much experience Marvin Lewis has had with troubled players, and the number of times he’s helped prolong their careers.
Whether he’s taken in the second round or the sixth, the criticism is still going to be there. The team that selects him is going to get the same questions regardless of where he’s taken, and the Bengals will view his talent as too good to pass up at 41.
The Steelers and Giants will draft a quarterback in the first three rounds
Neither the Giants nor the Steelers are set up for success at quarterback beyond their current starters. They don’t have a backup in place who can take the reins and be the next franchise quarterback. Ben Roethlisberger wavered on coming back for 2017, and Eli Manning’s game is rapidly declining.
It’s time for both teams to address their futures at quarterback. The Steelers and Giants will draft a quarterback in the first three rounds next week, hoping to land the heir apparent to their current starters.
It probably won’t happen in the first round, but guys like Joshua Dobbs, Nathan Peterman and Davis Webb are intriguing prospects in the second and third round. The Steelers met with all three of those quarterbacks, while the Giants showed interest in Patrick Mahomes and Jerod Evans.
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There will be fewer than five trades in the first round on draft night
If you’re a fan of trades, I have some bad news for you: There won’t be many this year. The reason for that disappointing development is that the class is just so deep from top to bottom. Many of the players taken in the second round will be first-round talents, only falling down draft boards because there are just so many good players at the top.
As a result, teams will be less willing to move up in order to take a particular player, for fear of surrendering a valuable second- or third-round pick. There will be fewer than five trades on draft night as many of the teams in the first round will stand pat and draft the best available player.
Two safeties will go in the top 10 for the first time since 2006
In 2006, Michael Huff and Donte Whitner landed in the top 10, going back-to-back at Nos. 7 and 8. Since then, two safeties have not gone in the first 10 picks of the same draft.
This year, it’ll happen with Jamal Adams and Malik Hooker flying off the board in the top 10. Both are elite talents who offer different skill sets, and are certainly deserving of being taken that high. The Bears, Jaguars, Jets, Chargers, Panthers, Bengals and Bills could all use a safety, and all of them are picking in the top 10.
That gives Adams and Hooker seven reasonable landing spots, and that’s without taking into account a possible trade up from a team like Cleveland, Arizona or Indianapolis (which are unlikely, admittedly).
This is a historically great class at safety, and with the NFL shifting more towards interchangeable safeties (rather than the traditional strong and free positions), teams will prioritize this position more than usual.