NFL teams that do not have a franchise quarterback on the roster are chasing one. In today's thought exercise, Pittsburgh, for the first time since drafting Ben Roethlisberger No. 11 overall as part of the 2004 NFL Draft, is in the market for a quarterback. The Steelers have been aggressive in trading up for Devin Bush previously or trading away a first-round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick. General manager Kevin Colbert makes a legacy move in his final year leading the operation, much like what Ozzie Newsome did in Baltimore with Lamar Jackson.
For the first time in a long time, a fourth quarterback snuck into the first round. Although the talent is not necessarily as strong as it had been a year ago, it is a position that commonly gets over drafted because it is the most critical position to success on the field.
Without further ado, let's kick this thing off!
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Round 1 - Pick 1
Evan Neal OL
Alabama • Soph • 6'7" / 350 lbs
Mekhi Becton's impact on the Jets was immeasurable when he was healthy because he is an impossible wall to get around or over. Neal has a similar body structure and presents similar challenges. As Jacksonville looks to build on its offensive core around Trevor Lawrence, the Alabama product should be a foundational piece.
Round 1 - Pick 2
Aidan Hutchinson EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'6" / 265 lbs
Detroit has a relatively good offensive line, and edge rusher is really the only other position that would make sense here. The Lions have their choice between Kayvon Thibodeaux and Hutchinson but opt for a local product who is a better fit for that organization and its goals.
Round 1 - Pick 3
Ikem Ekwonu OL
NC State • Soph • 6'4" / 320 lbs
Houston could go offensive line, cornerback or edge rusher. The Texans have more needs than probably any other team and yet are picking third overall. It is almost like they shouldn't have fired David Culley, but I digress. Ekwonu has the versatility to play offensive tackle or guard and will be one of the five best linemen the moment he steps in the building.
Round 1 - Pick 4
Kayvon Thibodeaux EDGE
Oregon • Soph • 6'5" / 258 lbs
If Jets fans were told that they would land Thibodeaux even three months ago, they probably would have assumed they were picking No. 1 overall. The shine has worn off the Oregon product a bit, but New York is essentially adding two first-round edge rushers to the roster with the addition of Thibodeaux and the return of Carl Lawson.
Round 1 - Pick 5
Mississippi State • Soph • 6'5" / 311 lbs
Andrew Thomas has locked down the left side of that offensive line, so the hope is that Cross walks in and commands a similar claim over the right tackle role. He is great in pass protection and that should support the idea of aiding Daniel Jones.
Round 1 - Pick 6
Pittsburgh • Soph • 6'3" / 220 lbs
Patient is not a word I would use to describe the Carolina organization as it pertains to the quarterback position. I assumed the Panthers would be the strongest contender for Deshaun Watson should he become available, but there is a lot of buzz that Pickett might be intriguing enough to them.
From Chicago Bears
Round 1 - Pick 7
Notre Dame • Soph • 6'4" / 220 lbs
New York just needs to add good football players and Hamilton falls under that umbrella. The combination of Xavier McKinney and Hamilton would give the Giants one of my favorite safety tandems in the league.
Round 1 - Pick 8
Drake London WR
USC • Soph • 6'4" / 213 lbs
When Atlanta needed a wide receiver several years ago, it looked to a larger-framed pass catcher in Julio Jones. As the Calvin Ridley situation continues to unfold, the Falcons need a contingency plan and perhaps even a compliment to Ridley should he return. London could be that player. In all likelihood, the franchise runs it back with Matt Ryan in 2022 and then is aggressive in pursuit of a quarterback the following offseason.
Mock Trade from Denver Broncos
Round 1 - Pick 9
Matt Corral QB
Ole Miss • Soph • 6'2" / 205 lbs
If Pittsburgh is committed to offensive coordinator Matt Canada, then it does not necessarily need a quarterback like Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers come across as a team that is seriously considering its options at quarterback in the draft, and it's been aggressive targeting players it wants from moving up to take Devin Bush to trading a first-round pick for Minkah Fitzpatrick. There is no reason to believe that same level of aggression does not carry over to the most important position on the field.
From Seattle Seahawks
Round 1 - Pick 10
LSU • Soph • 6'0" / 190 lbs
If you listen closely, you can hear champagne bottles being popped in the Big Apple. The idea of landing Kayvon Thibodeaux and Stingley seemed like a pipedream for a single team, but the Jets have made it happen in this scenario. If you walk away with two cornerstone defensive pieces, then it takes a lot of pressure off the rest of the unit. They could lean all in to the defensive makeover and take a linebacker on Day 2.
Round 1 - Pick 11
Malik Willis QB
Liberty • Soph • 6'1" / 219 lbs
Willis makes a lot of sense for Washington. He is a mobile quarterback with a big arm. The same model worked for Ron Rivera years earlier when Carolina selected Cam Newton. The hope is that the offensive line stays intact with Brandon Scherff returning and that Curtis Samuel gets healthy. If both of those happen, suddenly the Commanders have some options.
Round 1 - Pick 12
Cincinnati • Soph • 6'3" / 200 lbs
Minnesota is faced with a decision to take the edge rusher, Purdue's George Karlaftis, or the cornerback, Gardner. Either scenario makes a lot of sense. I am excited to see what general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah does in his first season in the captain's seat because of his diverse background in business and scouting.
Round 1 - Pick 13
Arkansas • Soph • 6'2" / 225 lbs
The Browns need wide receiver help if Baker Mayfield is going to have a fighting chance. He has to be healthy, of course, but he is going to be amped up this coming season after how things played out in 2021. Burks is a good fit schematically because he can line up on the boundary or in the slot. In the Browns' wide zone scheme, Burks can be an asset as a blocker as well because of his size.
Round 1 - Pick 14
Georgia • Soph • 6'3" / 304 lbs
Wyatt is rising in the eyes of many, and his body of work this past season justifies the hype. He has great size and pass rushing potential. In an effort to get younger while also conserving salary cap space, Baltimore hones in on the Georgia defensive lineman to upgrade its run defense.
From Miami Dolphins
Round 1 - Pick 15
George Karlaftis EDGE
Purdue • Soph • 6'4" / 263 lbs
In my opinion, this is great value for Karlaftis. He is a mature edge defender who is going to fight through double teams and is willing to do the dirty work on a defense. The Purdue product may not have the same juice around the edge as Boye Mafe or David Ojabo, but I feel confident he is going to provide a quality level of production.
From Indianapolis Colts
Round 1 - Pick 16
Devin Lloyd LB
Utah • Soph • 6'3" / 235 lbs
With back-to-back selections, Philadelphia upgrades the front seven. It began with George Karlaftis and extends to Lloyd, who is a linebacker with great range and who can get off blocks using his hands.
Round 1 - Pick 17
David Ojabo EDGE
Michigan • Soph • 6'4" / 255 lbs
Ojabo has more waist bend around the corner than any other prospect in this draft class. After watching the Rams win with two dominant edge rushers, I could see Brandon Staley wanting that for himself and having the ability to show some different looks pre-snap. The thing is that Ojabo has room for growth outside of his pass rushing prowess.
Round 1 - Pick 18
Sam Howell QB
North Carolina • Soph • 6'1" / 220 lbs
New Orleans won with a smart quarterback who displayed strong leadership skills, so it makes sense for the franchise to fish in a similar pond. Drew Brees' pre and post-snap acumen is what allowed him to reach peaks of success. Only time will tell if Howell is prepared to put in the same work.
Round 1 - Pick 19
Zion Johnson OL
Boston College • Soph • 6'3" / 316 lbs
After going defense with its first two selections, Philadelphia adds an interior offensive lineman who can fill Brandon Brooks' role. It would not be a surprise if the Eagles took two guards knowing that Landon Dickerson was eventually going to replace Jason Kelce at center. Few teams value offensive line competency like the Eagles.
Mock Trade from Pittsburgh Steelers
Round 1 - Pick 20
Nakobe Dean LB
Georgia • Soph • 5'11" / 231 lbs
After moving back and acquiring a future first-round pick, Denver adds Dean to its defense. I could see the Broncos exploring Jimmy Garoppolo, Carson Wentz or another quarterback in that stratosphere. They have a roster ready to compete.
Round 1 - Pick 21
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 192 lbs
New England is patient and savvy. It pounced on a tumbling Christian Barmore last year and land arguably the draft's top wide receiver at No. 21 overall. Wilson has great body control and is capable of making plays after the catch.
Round 1 - Pick 22
Alabama • Soph • 6'2" / 189 lbs
When Darren Waller was injured, the Raiders placed a Cooper Kupp-like emphasis on Hunter Renfrow. While he rose to the occasion, I do not think the franchise wants to find itself back in that situation. Williams, when healthy, can be an alpha option for Derek Carr.
Round 1 - Pick 23
Iowa • Soph • 6'2" / 305 lbs
It is not an ideal fit for Linderbaum, but Arizona is hoping that he has a long-term partnership with Kyler Murray, much like a pitcher and catcher on the baseball diamond. The Iowa product should bring an edge to that unit.
Round 1 - Pick 24
Northern Iowa • Soph • 6'7" / 325 lbs
Dallas has to start preparing for the future at the offensive tackle position, so whether or not Penning is called into action immediately -- and recent history of injuries suggest that he will be -- is irrelevant. The plan is for him to take over in 2023 at the latest.
Round 1 - Pick 25
Hill is a prospect who can play the nickel for Buffalo today and potentially take over one of those starting safety roles down the road. The talent justifies the investment. The Bills need depth and talent in the secondary, and Hill checks both boxes.
Round 1 - Pick 26
Jermaine Johnson II EDGE
Florida State • Soph • 6'5" / 262 lbs
It would not come as a surprise if neither Harold Landry nor Bud Dupree were on the roster in two years. Best case scenario, Tennessee has developed a rotation of successful edge rushers. Worst case scenario, it has a foundational edge rusher long-term.
Round 1 - Pick 27
Logan Hall DL
Houston • Soph • 6'6" / 283 lbs
I get caught overthinking Hall and his potential at times. He is a hybrid player, but he is better, at this stage, than his former teammate, Payton Turner, who was taken No. 28 overall last year. Based on that alone, it would not be a surprise if Hall were taken earlier.
Round 1 - Pick 28
Boye Mafe DL
Minnesota • Soph • 6'4" / 261 lbs
I was impressed with Mafe's ability in coverage and in the run game. Both take a backseat to his potential as a pass rusher. He is one of the more well-rounded edge rush prospects in this class.
From San Francisco 49ers
Round 1 - Pick 29
Central Michigan • Soph • 6'6" / 303 lbs
Miami snipes an offensive tackle from Central Michigan. Raimann is still improving in his technique, but he is uber-athletic. The motivation is there for him to be successful, and the Dolphins need to be proactive in fixing the issues we saw along that offensive line last year.
Round 1 - Pick 30
Georgia • Soph • 6'5" / 272 lbs
Walker has high pass rush potential. He can play on the edge or slide inside depending upon the setting. When teams took away Chris Jones during the first half of the season, the Chiefs had zero counter. Melvin Ingram's presence softened the blow a bit, but Walker gives them a more consistent presence.
Round 1 - Pick 31
Washington • Soph • 5'11" / 193 lbs
Without a justifiable offensive line option, Cincinnati addresses another area that lacks a long-term solution. McDuffie has a case to go much earlier, but the board simply did not fall into his favor. The Bengals are getting great value out of a program that has shown an ability to produce NFL talent in the secondary.
From Los Angeles Rams
Round 1 - Pick 32
Chris Olave WR
Ohio State • Soph • 6'0" / 187 lbs
Detroit will be making the pick for the defending Super Bowl champions, and it should not look a gift horse in the mouth. Olave represents great value at this stage of the first round. He could be a great compliment to Amon-Ra St. Brown.