The NFL will return to the top of the sports spotlight Thursday with the annual draft, and this year's selection meeting in Dallas should be one of the most memorable in years.
Quarterbacks always take center stage at the highest level of the game, and it's a given that every team needs a top-of-the-line quarterback if it is going to succeed in the long term.
While there have been occasions where a seemingly average or ordinary quarterback can lead a team to the playoffs (Blake Bortles) or even the occasional championship (Trent Dilfer), winning consistently requires excellent quarterback play.
There are four quarterbacks who could be selected at the top of the draft, and another two who could be chosen in the first round or possibly the second.
If six signal-callers, likely to be Sam Darnold of USC, Josh Rosen of UCLA, Josh Allen of Wyoming, Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma, Lamar Jackson of Louisville and Mason Rudolph of Oklahoma State, are all selected in the first round, it would echo the famed 1983 draft. Hall of Famers John Elway, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly were selected in the first round of that draft alongside Ken O'Brien, Tony Eason and Todd Blackledge.
Early in the draft process, it seemed that Mayfield was the fourth-ranked quarterback among the signal-callers even though he won the Heisman Trophy. It seemed clear that he fell behind Darnold, Rosen and Allen, but that may no longer be the case.
The Cleveland Browns have the first pick, and NFL insider Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweeted that he had heard from one NFL executive that Mayfield was in play to become the No. 1 pick in the draft.
There is always quite a bit of chatter in the days prior to the draft. NFL executives are motivated by their own team's situation, and the information passed out at this time of year is often twisted and manipulated.
While Mayfield is apparently moving up in the draft, it appears that Rosen could be sliding a bit.
NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah reported that Rosen's status may not be as secure as it looked a month ago when he and Darnold were being mentioned as the top two picks in the draft.
In the days before the draft, concerns have been raised about the UCLA quarterback's durability, and to a lesser extent, his leadership within the locker room, according to Jeremiah.
Rosen had a shoulder injury that caused him to miss half the schedule during his sophomore year, and he suffered two concussions last season.
Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweeted that Jackson made a visit to the New England Patriots, and that the team were impressed with the Louisville quarterback.
The most interesting thing to note is that the Patriots have not had Darnold, Rosen, Allen or Mayfield in for a visit, and that means they could be targeting Jackson. The Pats picked up the No. 23 pick in the first round from the Los Angeles Rams in the trade for Brandin Cooks, and a quarterback has to be in their sights due to Tom Brady's age (40 years old) and Jimmy Garoppolo's trade to San Francisco last season.
Mike Mayock of the NFL Network added his analysis of Jackson's potential fit with the Patriots.
"I think the first guy they've got to evaluate is Lamar Jackson," Mayock said, per Nicole Yang of the Boston Globe. "Does he or does he not fit for what they could do down the road? [Bill] Belichick is an outside-the-box guy, and I think that's the first thing you've got to think of is—it's a contrarian move—but can you go from Tom Brady to Lamar Jackson?"
The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles have the No. 32 pick in the first round, and while that's not a traditionally advantageous draft position, it still gives them a chance to select in the opening round. However, Peter King reported in his MMQB column that the Eagles want to trade out of the round to accumulate more picks.
Philadelphia does not have a second- or third-round pick. As a result, they may want to move the last pick in the first round.