The 87th NFL draft begins tonight from Las Vegas. Our sister site, Pro Football Rumors (@pfrumors on Twitter), has all the top stories covered. Although this draft differs from the past several, as it appears to lack a top-end quarterback, the event features a host of teams with high-stakes decisions. This promises to be the most enigmatic NFL draft in at least nine years.
Picking first for the second straight year, the Jaguars have their quarterback (2021 top pick Trevor Lawrence) and are focusing on their lines. Georgia defensive end Travon Walker has become the odds-on favorite to be the No. 1 pick, despite fellow D-end standout Aidan Hutchinson (Michigan) producing far better college numbers. But Jags owner Shad Khan was believed to disagree with GM Trent Baalke’s Walker preference, adding intrigue to tonight’s top pick. The Jaguars are also interested in trading down, though a lack of interested suitors may force them to stay at No. 1.
The Panthers look to represent the draft’s first quarterback domino, having needed an answer here since Cam Newton’s injury run began years ago. Rather than the NFC South team gambling on one of this class’ polarizing QBs, waiting for a mid- or post-draft trade for the Browns’ Baker Mayfield is in play. That said, Panthers head coach Matt Rhule recruited one of this class’ top QBs (Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett) when he was Temple’s coach years ago; a belated partnership remains a possibility. The Falcons (No. 8), Seahawks (No. 9), Saints (No. 15) and Steelers (No. 20) also loom as quarterback suitors. Liberty’s Malik Willis and Ole Miss’ Matt Corral join Pickett as this class’ top signal-caller prospects; the group could be in for an Aaron Rodgers-esque green-room wait.
This draft’s most interesting subplot: the 49ers’ Deebo Samuel decision. The All-Pro wide receiver requested a trade last week. Reports of Samuel disenchantment with the 49ers’ first extension offer, his unconventional role as a part-time running back, and a desire not to live in California have come up as reasons for the request. The Jets are viewed as Samuel’s most likely landing spot, and the 49ers’ future with the fourth-year playmaker could come down to the wire tonight — with a loose deadline being the Jets’ No. 10 overall pick.