Though COVID-19 is weighing on many people’s minds, the NFL is aiming to continue its league year schedule, aside from training camps. The upcoming draft, starting April 23, will continue on schedule as well. Commissioner Roger Goodell has released information through the league website detailing a remote draft set up, utilizing live video and the internet to contact players to inform them of the selection. Though they won’t be receiving the stereotypical jersey and hat, along with a handshake from Goodell, players will still get the chance to continue their football careers at the professional level.
Regardless of what happens, one thing remains guaranteed; Joe Burrow is going to be starting under center for the Cincinnati Bengals when football resumes. Burrow’s stellar final season with Louisiana State University paired with Cincinnati’s lack of interest in the deep free agent pool of quarterbacks this offseason guarantees this, leading to the eventual end of quarterback Andy Dalton’s career. The remainder of the draft is a mystery, but the needs of many teams make it quite clear how the first round is going to shake out. Here’s a glance at the potential top ten picks.
Picking second overall, the Washington Redskins will look to add either defensive end Chase Young or cornerback Jeff Okudah, the two highest rated non-quarterback players on the draft board. They could potentially shake the whole draft up, and their locker room, by taking a quarterback like Tua Tagovailoa, replacing last year’s first round draft pick Dwayne Haskins under center. The Redskins, now under Ron Rivera’s guidance, are additionally plagued with problems on their offensive line, where starting left tackle Trent Williams has demanded to either be traded or cut by the franchise. A deep offensive line class, especially at tackle, could prompt the Redskins to trade back with a quarterback-needy team that’s aiming to win now, such as the Los Angeles Chargers, who currently have journeyman Tyrod Taylor at the top of their depth chart.
Picking third overall, a dismantled Detroit Lions team will likely take Young or Okudah, whichever remains at this point, with the priority likely going to Okudah if both are available to supplement the loss of star cornerback Darius Slay, an offseason trade with the Philadelphia Eagles. With offensive line issues of their own, as starting right guard Graham Glasgow and starting right tackle Rick Wagner both sought greener pastures in free agency, the Lions could additionally be in a spot to trade down and acquire more draft capital, or potentially grab players from organizations needing a desperate move up to the top of the draft.
Sitting at fourth, the New York Giants are faced with equal need on both sides of the line of scrimmage. Their defensive line was bolstered by the acquisition of Leonard Williams at defensive tackle from the New York Jets, but they lack a true pass rusher to pair with William’s dominance between the tackles as a run stuffer. If Young somehow falls this far, the Giants will be drooling over him. If not, adding another bruiser in the trenches to help protect quarterback Daniel Jones and clear lanes for eccentric running back Saquon Barkley couldn’t possibly hurt, as the Giants would be emulating a similar dynamic to the Dallas Cowboys of the early 2010s.
The first of three picks in this round, the Miami Dolphins will face criticism if they don’t take a true signal caller, or at least a strong prospect, with one of these picks. A strong import of talent on the offensive line, including tackle Ereck Flowers to man the blindside, along with bringing in running back Jordan Howard, should provide the Dolphins new quarterback some stability in his first few seasons at the helm. Miami will take Tagovailoa if he remains on the board, or could potentially reach on the board and take Justin Herbert or Jordan Love to put the Chargers in an interesting predicament.
At sixth overall, perhaps the most complete team in the league lacks a true quarterback in their locker room. The Chargers have bolstered their offensive line through trades, getting young All-Pro guard Trai Turner from the Carolina Panthers in exchange for aging left tackle Russell Okung, while additionally signing right tackle Bryan Bulaga away from the Green Bay Packers. Defensively, the acquisition of Linval Joseph on the line paired with edge rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram spells disaster, while additional free agent pick up cornerback Chris Harris Jr. will patrol the back end with safety Derwin James, striking fear into quarterbacks across the league. Whoever is taken here will have the pressure on their shoulders to win now, as this team is stacked with veteran talent that will decline in the coming seasons.
The Carolina Panthers, a shell of the franchise they were but a season ago, sit at the seventh overall pick faced with multiple holes throughout their roster. The trade with the Chargers cost them a strong offensive lineman and gave them a 32-year-old swing tackle with a scattered track record. Free agent signee Teddy Bridgewater better hope the Panthers take a tackle here, if not then taking athletic freak Justin Simmons out of Clemson at linebacker/safety. The man ran a 4.39 second 40-yard dash at six-foot-five-inches tall and 240 pounds. Now that’s the type of athleticism needed to replace the recently retired middle linebacker Luke Kuechly as the heart of this defense.
The Arizona Cardinals, having a quietly strong season offensively, had their butts kicked due to their inability to stop their opponents, finishing the year with the second worst defense in the league. Quarterback Kyler Murray continues to flash success with an aging Larry Fitzgerald as his top wide receiver, but the offseason story nobody expected was the acquisition of wide receiver Deandre Hopkins from the Houston Texans, giving Murray one of the best duos in the league to throw to in the coming season. Arizona could invest in the offense here and grab another lineman, or they could go overboard with weapons by drafting a wide receiver like Jerry Jeudy or Henry Ruggs III here.
The Jacksonville Jaguars, having shipped out nearly every piece of their dominant defense from 2018, will look to improve that portion of their roster at this spot if they don’t prioritize protecting quarterback Gardner Minshew over that. With defensive centerpiece Calais Campbell now in Baltimore in exchange for a seventh-round pick, arguably the steal of the offseason, defensive tackles Javon Kinlaw or Derrick Brown will likely be the selection to control the line of scrimmage.
At the tenth spot, the Cleveland Browns have actually left their roster with very few holes. They let a few linebackers walk in free agency, but they signed former Packers’ tackling machine Blake Martinez to run their front seven, while bringing in multiple offensive pieces to help Baker Mayfield take the next step at quarterback. Picking up a true blindside blocker to protect Mayfield opposite Jack Conklin could give the Browns a formidable offense that can contend with most teams in the league. This is all dependent on Mayfield’s improvement from year two to year three, though.