The NFL draft often presents a paradox to its viewers. While promising imminent, exciting change, many of the selections seem preordained, a symptom of the long, arduous waiting game leading up to the event.
Last spring, it was a foregone conclusion that Jared Goff and Carson Wentz would be selected with the first two picks overall, while Cowboys owner Jerry Jones couldn’t help but salivate over Ezekiel Elliott when he dropped to the No. 4 slot.
Two years ago, draft analysts and fans alike were waiting for the No. 5 pick to be taken, since Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota, Dante Fowler Jr., and Amari Cooper were comfortably slotted into the first four spots and the first draft-night trade only occurred when the Chargers moved up two spots to select Melvin Gordon at No. 15.
This year will prove to be different, however, and it’s shaping up to be the most exciting first round we’ve witnessed in recent memory.
Myles Garrett will almost certainly be selected by the Cleveland Browns while he watches at home with his draft party on April 27, and is expected to be the cornerstone of a defense undergoing a drastic overhaul. After Garrett is selected, no one knows what’s going to happen next, the specter of chaos adding some much-needed flare to this year’s spectacle.
The San Francisco 49ers will be on the clock with the second overall pick, with general manager John Lynch overseeing their strategy. Lynch’s appointment was met with widespread derision, confusion, and skepticism, and with no clear-cut option at No. 2, the 49ers hold an opportunity to set off a domino effect with their selection. Sporting the most depleted roster in the entire league, it’s eminently possible the 49ers trade down in hopes of accruing as many picks as possible. How much fun would that be?!
Next up are the Chicago Bears, who face a similar conundrum as the 49ers. Prior to free agency, the Bears lacked a franchise quarterback, but evidently believe Mike Glennon will fill that void after signing him to a three-year, $45-million contract in March. No one knows what the Bears will do, to say nothing of the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 4, who still can’t get off the ground despite a wealth of draft capital every year.
The Tennessee Titans hold the No. 5 and No. 18 selections in this year’s draft and are well-equipped to accelerate their team into a genuine playoff contender. Fifteen months ago, general manager Jon Robinson inherited the least talented roster in the NFL, but he’s done wonders to rework the roster and acquire some principle pieces to support Mariota. Do the Titans go full speed ahead in trying to contend for the AFC South, or trade down to add depth across the board? The Titans could be a compelling dance partner on Day 1.
The New York Jets are up next at No. 6 and are positioned to be the most hilarious – or depressing, considering your vantage point – team of the evening. In desperate need of a quarterback, despite a relatively weak quarterback class, the poor collegian that gets chosen to join the Jets will likely be booed mercilessly, turning the draft into morbid theater.
There’s a clear element of uncertainty atop the board, with teams at varying distances away from contention, a lack of top-end quarterbacks, and different team needs. It’s nearly impossible to predict how this year’s draft will shape up, and, in turn, the viewers are in for the kind of show that hasn’t been witnessed in recent memory.
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