It isn't exactly easy to predict the future. It's basically impossible to predict how the first round of any NFL draft will unfold. Predicting this first round, in which, for the first time in seemingly forever, there's not even close to being a clear-cut consensus regarding what the team with the first overall selection will do ... forget about it.
It's Draft Day. Time for some predictions on the biggest surprises in Round 1.
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Saquon Barkley sinks out of top 5, epic RB run in Round 2
I'm in the minority that thinks Barkley will fall out of the top 5 in this draft. Even if the board goes quarterback at 1, Bradley Chubb at 2 and quarterback at 3, I think the Browns are more likely to take a cornerback (Denzel Ward) or a do-everything safety (Derwin James) than Barkley, simply due to positional value. Either way, this is the best running-back class in quite some time, and after Barkley, it's anyone's guess as to who will be the second ball-carrier selected.
Derrius Guice from LSU, USC's Ronald Jones and Georgia's Sony Michel are all seemingly vying for that distinction. Regardless of who's next after Barkley -- my guess is Guice to the Steelers -- the story of the second round will be how many running backs were picked. Beyond the aforementioned names, Michel's teammate Nick Chubb should land in Round 2, as should San Diego State's Rashaad Penny, Oregon's Royce Freeman, Auburn's Kerryon Johnson, Arizona State's Kalen Ballage, and NC State's Nyheim Hines.
Six quarterbacks are picked in the first round
The quarterbacks are the headliners of this draft class, and I don't think they'll be on the board long. Three of the perceived "big four" of Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Josh Rosen should be selected between picks No. 1 and No. 6, with the Browns and Jets absolute locks to take a quarterback. The Giants and Broncos are potential quarterback landing spots, and don't be stunned if the Cardinals at No. 15, the Bills at No. 12, or the Dolphins at No. 11 move up for one of those three. Could one fall? Certainly. But if that's the case, and, say, Rosen is available at No. 6, any of the potential trade-up teams -- particularly the Dolphins -- could just stay put and let the fall continue outside of the top 10 because none of the teams picking from No. 7 (Buccaneers) to No. 10 (Raiders) are going to take a signal-caller -- the Bears and 49ers pick No. 8 and No. 9.
I had the Cardinals trading up and the Dolphins and Bills staying put to land Lamar Jackson and Mason Rudolph, respectively. Regardless of the order, or how quickly they ultimately come off the board, we are going to see six quarterbacks taken in the first round for the first time since the famous 1983 draft that featured John Elway, Jim Kelly, and Dan Marino. The other quarterbacks in that class? Todd Blackledge, Tony Eason, and Ken O'Brien.
At least two unexpected names are called in Round 1
This is something that occurs every year, although it's easy to forget. In 2017, defensive end Taco Charlton was picked at No. 28 overall by the Cowboys despite not being a fixture in final mock drafts. In 2016, the 49ers surprised everyone by trading up for Stanford guard Joshua Garnett near the end of Round 1, and Green Bay's choice of defensive tackle Kenny Clark at No. 27 -- a pick before Garnett -- began the stretch of unexpected picks. With widespread uncertainty in this draft, don't be stunned when a few prospects who weren't trendy in mock drafts hear their names called in the first round. Possibilities? Stanford safety Justin Reid. My mock pick for the Saints, Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki. Colorado cornerback Isaiah Oliver. Florida State defensive end Josh Sweat.
One supposed top-10 lock 'falls' into the 20s
Although he's my No. 9 overall prospect in this class, I'm predicting Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick to be this year's prospect who enters the draft widely assumed to be selected inside the top 10 but winds up going somewhere in the 20s. The main reason? His competition, Derwin James. The latter tested much better than Fitzpatrick at the combine and offers a very comparable versatile skill set. Last year, Jonathan Allen's fall was likely due to medical concerns, and Reuben Foster's drop was probably precipitated because of off-the-field issues. Fitzpatrick doesn't have either of those, but James is the more-explosive prospect, and Fitzpatrick was predominantly a slot cornerback at Alabama. That's the other reason I think he falls. The former Crimson Tide star has little experience on the boundary, isn't your classic in-the-box safety, and isn't a Malik Hooker-like center fielder. Is slot corner important in the NFL? Sure. And the game is getting more "positionless" each season. But I believe the league still places a higher value on outside corners and safeties who take the ball away from the deep middle or those who play quasi-weakside linebacker roles.