‘Broadway Baker’ and Barkley dominate the NFL draft-week hype

Three days before Roger Goodell officially puts the Cleveland Browns on the clock, rumors are swirling and phones are buzzing. A few things seem to be taking shape, but no one knows for sure until Goodell announces the pick on the podium.

The Browns hold the keys to the draft with the first and fourth overall picks. The sense around the NFL is that the Browns will take a quarterback with the first pick, but general manager John Dorsey has been doing a great job keeping the team’s favorite quarterback a secret. Sam Darnold is the heavy favorite to get picked in that slot, but Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield have both been tied to the organization as well. It is safe to say that one of the three players will be chosen first in this year’s draft.

Next up is the New York Giants. For the Giants, the big question is Eli Manning’s longevity in the NFL. The team and its fans do not know how much longer he will play, but do know he will require a successor soon. Dave Gettleman has made it clear he wants to win now and does not want to rebuild.

This gives fans the feeling that the Giants will select Saquon Barkley or Bradley Chubb. The Giants reportedly have not been in love with any of the top quarterback prospects. A team needs to be in love with a player it drafts this high in the first round.

The New York Jets made it clear they are looking for a new franchise signal caller, hoping to end their quest to replace Joe Namath. Incredibly, it has been decades since their last franchise quarterback. The Browns are likely to take Darnold, but the Jets will jump on him if he is still available. Assuming he is gone, the Jets have support for Mayfield and Josh Rosen in their front office. This pick feels like a true 50-50 split.

Although there has been recent buzz supporting Mayfield for the Jets, there are still many questions surrounding the pick. That being said, Jets fans would love to see “Broadway Baker” take over the franchise.

After the Jets, the whole draft is up for wide-ranging debates. The Buffalo Bills have clearly expressed they want one of the quarterbacks, particularly Allen. However, they do not know if they can wait until the 12th pick to snag him. This calls for a trade scenario.

The Denver Broncos, Indianapolis Colts and Browns have all mentioned wanting to trade down from their slots at four through six. It is likely the Bills will use their draft capital to get Allen around this range.

Some other prospects that should be going in the top 10 are Quenton Nelson, Chubb, Denzel Ward, Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds. Smith and Edmunds are two polarizing prospects in the back half of the top 10. Both have the ability to change the face of a defense from day one. Smith proved to be a dominant force in the middle of a Georgia defense that almost won a national championship. A sideline-to-sideline tackler who is always near the ball can be an attractive option when you have a need for a linebacker.

As for Edmunds, at only 19 years old he proved to be a productive edge rusher who is athletic enough to contribute as inside linebacker as well. Edmunds and Smith both have the potential to be All-Pro players at some point in their careers and teams such as the Colts, San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears could all use their services to change their franchises’ recent misfortune.

The prospect with the most questions surrounding him is Lamar Jackson. Jackson is a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist, winning the award in 2016. He had back-to-back seasons of 3,500-plus passing yards and 1,500-plus rushing yards. Although he has had a phenomenal college career, he has still been overlooked ever since the draft process started.

The typical NFL quarterback has been shifting toward being more athletic and run-happy, and Jackson fits the bill. Jackson can go anywhere from top 10 in the second round and the sense around the league is that no one knows.

This becomes the most interesting story because someone is going to land a player with the potential to take a franchise from the bottom to the top, but Jackson is being overlooked because of his unorthodox quarterback style.

Editor's Note: This article was written before the draft took place.

SportsRay MaurerComment