The NFL’s highly anticipated annual harvest of college stars kicks off at 5 p.m. PT on Thursday from Nashville, Tenn., with the opening choice currently held by the Arizona Cardinals, who have been on the clock since finishing last season with a league-worst 3-13 record.
Rounds 2-3 are set for Friday, with Rounds 4-7 on Saturday.
A lot of the attention is swirling around whether the Cardinals will use their top pick to grab Heisman-winning Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray. Or will Arizona opt for help on defense or trade down, hoping to land a QB later?
Regardless, all this has left incumbent QB Josh Rosen, last year’s No. 1 pick by Arizona (10th overall) ‘’annoyed.’’
Jon Gruden and the Oakland Raiders, along with new GM Mike Mayock, also will be at center stage in Round 1 with three picks (their own No. 4, plus No. 24 from Chicago and No. 27 from Dallas). Including the third pick in Round 2, Oakland has four in the Top 35.
By comparison, barring trades, Chicago won’t be making its fourth pick until the eighth selection in the seventh round. But the Bears probably don’t mind being without their No. 1 after their heist of Khalil Mack from the Raiders last year.
Other teams with multiple picks in the first round are the Giants (Nos. 6, 17) and Packers (12, 30).
Teams that aren’t in line to be part of the first-day activities will be Cleveland (first pick 49th overall), Dallas (58th), New Orleans (62nd) and Chicago (87th).
Now here’s one man’s attempt to forecast the opening round:
No. 1 Arizona Cardinals: Rookie coach Kliff Kingsbury, who guided NFL 2018 MVP QB Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech, has heaped praise on Murray throughout draft process.
Many analysts are equally enamored with Murray, but that wasn’t the case with ex-Redskins Super Bowl-winning GM Charley Casserly, who generated headlines after the NFL Combine by saying reports he received from teams after interviews with Murray were: “Leadership — not good. Study habits — not good. The board work — below not good.”
The speedy 5-foot-10 Murray also was a first-round choice of baseball’s Oakland A’s last year. Would the Cardinals want to deal with the possibility of him returning to baseball if he’s unhappy with the goings-on in Arizona?
With that in mind, the Cardinals will need to kiss and make up with Rosen when they pick Ohio State pass-rushing sensation Nick Bosa with the No. 1 pick. He’s certainly got the bloodlines, with brother Joey excelling with the Chargers.
No. 2. San Francisco 49ers: With Bosa gone, the 49ers likely will go for defensive line help with 6-4, 295-pound Alabama DT Quinnen Williams, who’s ranked as the second best pick on some boards.
No. 3 NY Jets: The team has been active this season with major free-agent acquisitions such as ex-Steelers RB LeVeon Bell and WR Jamison Crowder, who will join second-year QB Sam Darnold, last season’s No. 3 pick overall. Thus, the Jets will be in the market for some interior linemen since they lost two guards in free agency, not to mention the crippling recent losses to retirement of center Nick Mangold and OT D’Brickashaw Ferguson.
A trade seems likely so they could get multiple picks down the road. If no trade, they should grab the next best guy available on the D-line: Houston’s ferocious Ed Oliver.
No. 4 Oakland Raiders: Gruden has waffled on whether Derek Carr is his QB for the long haul. So, if Murray’s available he may want to make a splash by taking him.
No. 5 Tampa Bay Bucs: The Bucs have to be seeking a edge rusher, and with Bosa surely gone, they can’t leave Kentucky’s Josh Allen on the board.
No. 6 NY Giants: Nope, no QB just yet. The Giants try to replenish a weak pass-rush unit with Michigan’s Rashan Gary, a Jersey kid who grew up less than 15 minutes from the Meadowlands.
No. 7 Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags were tied for third with 53 sacks allowed and need to make new QB Nick Foles comfortable. Washington OT Andrew Dillard (6-5, 315) is the choice as first OL picked.
No. 8 Detroit Lions: In a division with prolific passers it’s paramount to feed the secondary or the pass rush. The pick is Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat.
No. 9 Buffalo Bills: The Bills need OL help and Jonah Williams (6-4, 302) of Alabama is the pick.
No. 10 Denver Broncos: The Broncos are tired of dealing with injured and ineffective tight ends, so they’ll grab the top prospect at the position, Iowa’s T.J. Hockenson.
No. 11 Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals surely are looking an eventual replacement for their QBs Andy Dalton (and Jeff Driskel) and will snare Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, for both his ability and in an attempt to sell tickets.
No. 12 Green Bay Packers: The Pack wants TEs, too, and grabs another Hawkeye, Noah Fant.
No. 13 Miami Dolphins: In effort to boost a lagging defense and perhaps give a boost to a sagging gate, the Dolphins grab edge rusher Brian Burns of Florida State, a native of nearby Fort Lauderdale.
No. 14 Atlanta Falcons: The consensus is that the Falcons will go with a defensive lineman. Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence would be a powerful addition.
No. 15 Washington Redskins: The Redskins were horrible along the OL last year and need to give new QB Case Keenum a fighting chance. But if fast and strong WR D.K. Metcalf of Ole Miss is available, he could be too hard to resist.
No. 16 Carolina Panthers: The Panthers also had major OL woes and won’t want to pass on Florida tackle Jawaan Taylor (6-5, 321).
No. 17 NY Giants: They can’t wait any longer to draft Eli Manning’s heir apparent. The choice is Duke’s Daniel Jones, who has been referred to as the most pro-ready of the QB crop. It doesn’t hurt that Jones’ college coach, Dave Cutcliffe, also mentored Eli and brother Peyton.
No. 18 Minnesota Vikings: The Vikings’ greatest need is along the offensive line. The pick is N.C. State All-America center Garrett Bradbury.
No. 19 Tennessee Titans: What’s not to like about Clemson DT Christian Wilkins (6-3, 315)?
No. 20 Pittsburgh Steelers: Washington CB Byron Murphy has received incredibly glowing reports from scouts.
No. 21 Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks grab the first linebacker off the board from the powerhouse Wolverines, Devin Bush.
No. 22 Baltimore Ravens: This is their only pick until the third round, so it better be one to give a boost to defense that could need a playmaker — edge rusher Jaylon Ferguson of Louisiana Tech.
No. 23 Houston Texans: The Texans reportedly are desperate to replace the void created at CB when Kareem Jackson left for Denver. Deandre Baker of Georgia gets the nod.
No. 24: Oakland Raiders: Gruden is bragging about adding the 24th and 27th selections in trades last year, but in the process gave away one player who went fourth overall in 2015 in WR Amari Cooper, who wound starring for Dallas, and also Mack, who was the fifth pick in 2014. He had 12.5 sacks for Chicago in 2018, half a sack less than Oakland’s total. That’s why Clemson edge rusher Clelin Ferrell is the pick.
No. 25 Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles will like a speedy WR to help out QB Carson Wentz: Marquise Brown of Oklahoma is the guy.
No. 26 Indianapolis Colts: The Colts likely will be reaching for defensive help. And just like last year when they took Notre Dame OG Quenton Nelson at No. 6, this time they’ll take Irish DT Jerry Tillery.
No. 27 Oakland Raiders: Temple CB Rock Ya-Sin has been heralded for his play in the pass-happy AAC.
No. 28 LA Chargers: Another team that would be happy to land a talented OT. How about Cody Ford of Oklahoma?
No. 29 Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs suddenly have holes all over their roster. LSU CB Greedy Williams fills one of them.
No. 30: Green Bay Packers: QB Aaron Rodgers should be familiar with this scenario: GB will take a QB in the first round despite having a great passer still in his prime. It’s N.C. State’s Ryan Finley. In 2005, Rodgers was a first-round pick, which caused Brett Favre to get his pants in a bunch.
No. 31 LA Rams: With standout RB Todd Gurley dealing with knee arthritis, the Rams need a running back that can eat up snaps. That would be the tackle-busting Josh Jacobs of Alabama.
No. 32 New England Patriots: The Pats are big on bringing intelligent players into the fold and they’ll look to do that here with Texas A&M center Erick McCoy.
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