The biggest question among every person who follows the NFL draft or works in the industry right now is "Where will the quarterbacks go?" I actually woke up to that text from a high-level executive on Thursday morning. The problem is, we're all waiting to see what the Cleveland Browns do with the No. 1 overall pick first.
The NFL draft is like a game of dominos in that once a team makes a move, there's a ripple effect that changes every pick made after it. With all the focus being on the top quarterbacks, now is a good time to look at some scenarios for each and how that could affect the first round.
Sam Darnold, USC
Range: Picks No. 1 through No. 3 overall
Darnold may very well be the first pick in the draft, but as of right now, Browns general manager John Dorsey isn't leaking his intentions. If Darnold is the first pick, the New York Giants likely select running back Saquon Barkley at No. 2 overall, and the New York Jets have to decide between Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Baker Mayfield at No. 3.
If the Browns opt to go with Josh Allen, all the intel I've gathered says Darnold would be off the board to the Jets at No. 3. He is seen by NFL scouts as the safest and best quarterback in this class and won't be waiting long to hear his name called Thursday night.
Josh Allen, Wyoming
Range: Picks No. 1 through No. 5 overall
Allen's exact landing spot is tough to predict, but there are multiple scenarios running around that should be addressed.
The Browns could take Allen at No. 1 overall and end his draft night wait early. And that's a scenario many in the NFL do believe could happen. One source I spoke to this week downright thinks it'll happen. If the Browns don't select Allen with the first pick, where would he go?
Allen's range is the top five picks. The Jets could consider him at No. 3, a team could trade with the Browns to move up to No. 4 for him, or he could go to the Denver Broncos at No. 5 if they keep the pick. Based on multiple conversations with teams this week, it doesn't sound like the strong-armed Wyoming quarterback gets out of the top five.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Range: Picks No. 3 through No. 5 overall
Baker himself thinks he's going in the top five, and folks around the NFL agree. His range is thought to be between picks No. 3 and No. 5 overall, depending on when Darnold and Allen are drafted.
The expectation right now is that Darnold goes first and the Jets take Mayfield at No. 3. If it's Allen at No. 1 and Darnold at No. 3, the Denver Broncos wouldn't let him slide past the No. 5 pick. And it's likely he knows this, which is why the Heisman Trophy winner is confident saying he'll go top-five.
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Josh Rosen, UCLA
Range: Picks No. 3 through No. 12 overall
Of the top four quarterbacks, this is the hardest range to predict. Rosen is a beautiful passer, but he frequently dealt with injuries in college and has rubbed some the wrong way off the field. Those concerns add up to make him the quarterback most likely to slide on draft day.
There is a scenario where Rosen is the Jets' pick at No. 3 overall, even if they haven't been directly linked to him by any of my NFL sources. The same goes for a team like the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills or New England Patriots attempting to move up for Rosen should he slide past the No. 5 overall pick. The floor for him is pick No. 12, where the Bills are on the clock and need a quarterback.
An exact landing spot is impossible to predict right now, but all of my sources believe Rosen is still a top-15 pick on draft night.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Range: Picks No. 15 through No. 40
That's a huge range for Jackson, and it speaks to how polarizing his stock is around the league. A team like the Arizona Cardinals or Los Angeles Chargers could take Jackson in the first round. As of last week, I was hearing consistent information that he would be drafted in Round 1, so it is likely he'll be selected on Thursday.
Jackson's floor is pick No. 40, where the Denver Broncos could make him the quarterback of the future should he somehow last until Day 2.
The teams most likely to be interested are the Cardinals, Chargers and possibly the Saints.
Here's what else is going on this week:
- News, rumors and notes from around the league
- Updated Top 25 big board
- Risers, fallers and sleepers
- Stick to Football podcast: guest Charlie Yook, breaking down Ryan Leaf's comments on Baker Mayfield
The Scout's Report
• MMQB's Peter King said on B/R's Simms & Lefkoe podcast that he doesn't expect Dorsey to tip his hand before draft night. That meshes with what I've been hearing for weeks. Dorsey isn't telling anyone—not the players, not their agents and not even his top lieutenants.
• Could Florida State safety Derwin James slide on draft day? Multiple league sources believe he could hear his name called in the second half of the first round despite several calling him a true top-10 player in the class.
• One more note on James: Albert Breer of MMQB reported the FSU safety declined a workout request from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This isn't common, but it has happened in the recent past because top players don't want to risk injury in the predraft process.
• Last year, the first offensive tackle was drafted at No. 20 overall when the Denver Broncos added Garett Bolles. This year, according to a handful of scouts and executives, the first offensive tackle might not be drafted until the 20s again. Three—Mike McGlinchey, Connor Williams and Kolton Miller—are expected to go in Round 1, but none are seen as top-15 players.
• The love for South Carolina tight end Hayden Hurst is real, according to one high-level executive I spoke to this week. Hurst, who played minor league baseball before joining the Gamecocks football team, is seen as a plug-and-play impact at the position and could be a major boost to a team in "win now" mode. B/R's Dan Pompei has a great feature on Hurst that's worth checking out.
• It's hard to call any pick in this draft a lock, but word around the league is that the Atlanta Falcons love Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan. More than any other Round 1 selection, this is the one I feel best about predicting.
• The 2017 draft saw three wide receivers taken in the top 10 picks, but that is not expected to be the case this time around. NFL decision-makers I spoke to all expect three to be the most we'll see drafted in the entire first round. Calvin Ridley and Courtland Sutton seem like locks, with either D.J. Moore or DJ Chark joining them.
The Big Board
1. RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
2. EDGE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State
3. OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
4. LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
5. QB Sam Darnold, USC
6. DB Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
7. QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
8. QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
9. CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
10. LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
11. S Derwin James, Florida State
12. QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
13. OT Connor Williams, Texas
14. EDGE Marcus Davenport, UTSA
15. EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College
16. DL Vita Vea, Washington
17. CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
18. WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
19. LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
20. LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
21. C Billy Price, Ohio State
22. OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
23. C James Daniels, Iowa
24. CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville
25. CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
10. Don't overthink the Tom Brady situation. Every smart person in the NFL world believes Brady will be back for 2018 and probably a few more seasons after that. On the other hand, don't overlook the fact that the Patriots should and probably will draft a quarterback within the first 100 selections.
Trading both Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo away last season indicated the Patriots were ready to start over behind Brady, and now the team owns picks No. 23, 31, 43, 63 and 95 in the first three rounds. There are needs at linebacker, defensive back and offensive line, but the expectation from talking to league sources is that the Patriots will add a quarterback early.
9. Is the buzz connecting the Patriots and Josh Rosen real? I think so, but not to the point where Bill Belichick is ready to package those five picks in the top 100 to get a quarterback. In fact, trading up at all isn't really Belichick's style.
The more likely scenario is that the Patriots did their homework on Rosen in case he has an Aaron Rodgers-like fall on draft night. If he's there in the late teens, the Patriots would be wise to send pick No. 23 and a third-rounder to get up to a spot where they can add him.
Anything can happen on draft night, but New England making a huge trade up the board seems unlikely.
8. Keep an eye on Washington's Vita Vea as a potential top-12 pick. Multiple scouts I spoke to this week believe the massive defensive tackle has the athleticism and football character to be drafted much higher than many in the media believe.
Vea ranks No. 16 overall on my final big board and compared to Haloti Ngata in his NFL Draft 400 scouting report.
7. Many have asked for my historical QB grades, and now that those are final, I can share them with you. Here's how the quarterbacks from the last three classes ranked together based on predraft scores.
1. Jared Goff (2016)
2. Carson Wentz (2016)
3. Sam Darnold (2018)
4. Mitch Trubisky (2017)
5. Josh Allen (2018)
6. Josh Rosen (2018)
7. Baker Mayfield (2018)
8. Deshaun Watson (2017)
9. Patrick Mahomes (2017)
10. Paxton Lynch (2016)
11. Lamar Jackson (2018)
12. Mason Rudolph (2018)
6. One more note on grades: Saquon Barkley has tied Andrew Luck and Von Miller with the highest grade I've ever assigned a player. He's pretty good.
4. NFL Draft Sleeper: Tarvarius Moore, S, Southern Miss
Tracking more than 500 players each season is not an easy part of this job, and because of it, there are ultimately players who fall through the cracks. One such player this season is Southern Miss free safety Tarvarius Moore. Or at least he was. After getting film on him in the last two weeks, Moore has impressed me with his range and coverage skills. He looks like a top-100 player.
3. NFL Draft Riser: Kyle Lauletta, QB, Richmond
We've all been fooled in the past by late-rising rumors surrounding quarterbacks like Tom Savage or Nathan Peterman, but this year's buzz on Kyle Lauletta feels real. That might be because the talk is that Lauletta will be a late Round 2 or early Round 3 guy and not a first-rounder. The Richmond quarterback enjoyed a great predraft process, and a team that misses out on one of the Big 4 QBs could make him their guy on Day 2.
2. In case you missed it, our NFL Draft 400 series has been rolling out. Here are the links for each position:
1. A new Stick to Football is out with guest Charlie Yook of NFL Network talking draft plans. We also get heated talking about Ryan Leaf's comments regarding Baker Mayfield and discuss all the latest NFL draft rumors.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.